Skip to main content

Full text of "The story of Gösta Berling"

See other formats


This is a digital copy of a book that was preserved for generations on Hbrary shelves before it was carefully scanned by Google as part of a project 

to make the world's books discoverable online. 

It has survived long enough for the copyright to expire and the book to enter the public domain. A public domain book is one that was never subject 

to copyright or whose legal copyright term has expired. Whether a book is in the public domain may vary country to country. Public domain books 

are our gateways to the past, representing a wealth of history, culture and knowledge that's often difficult to discover. 

Marks, notations and other maiginalia present in the original volume will appear in this file - a reminder of this book's long journey from the 

publisher to a library and finally to you. 

Usage guidelines 

Google is proud to partner with libraries to digitize public domain materials and make them widely accessible. Public domain books belong to the 
public and we are merely their custodians. Nevertheless, this work is expensive, so in order to keep providing this resource, we liave taken steps to 
prevent abuse by commercial parties, including placing technical restrictions on automated querying. 
We also ask that you: 

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Google Book Search for use by individuals, and we request that you use these files for 
personal, non-commercial purposes. 

+ Refrain fivm automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort to Google's system: If you are conducting research on machine 
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the 
use of public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help. 

+ Maintain attributionTht GoogXt "watermark" you see on each file is essential for informing people about this project and helping them find 
additional materials through Google Book Search. Please do not remove it. 

+ Keep it legal Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just 
because we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States, that the work is also in the public domain for users in other 
countries. Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of 
any specific book is allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Google Book Search means it can be used in any manner 
anywhere in the world. Copyright infringement liabili^ can be quite severe. 

About Google Book Search 

Google's mission is to organize the world's information and to make it universally accessible and useful. Google Book Search helps readers 
discover the world's books while helping authors and publishers reach new audiences. You can search through the full text of this book on the web 

at |http : //books . google . com/| 







Story of Gosta Berling 

Translated from the Swedish of 
Selma Lagerlof 


Pauline Bancroft Flach 


Little, Brown, and Company 




.5". <i 

■i^o coXrj: 



DtC 6 1898 i 


BOUND AUG f 1910 ^ 

Copyright, 1S98, 
By Little, Brown, and Company. 

All rights reserved. 

John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U.S.A. 



^ "7 


"The Story of Gosta Berling" was published in 
Sweden in 1894 and immediately brought its author 
into prominence. 

The tales are founded on actual occurrences and 
depict the life in the province of Varmland at the 
beginning of this century. Varmland is a lonely tract 
in the southern part of Sweden, and has retained 
many of its old customs, while mining is the prin- 
cipal industry of its sparse population. It consists of 
great stretches of forest, sloping down to long, narrow 
lakes, connected by rivers. 

Miss Lagerlof has grown up in the midst of the 
wild legends of her country, and, deeply imbued with 
their spirit, interprets them with a living force all 
her own. 

Her efforts have been materially encouraged by 
the Crown Prince of Sweden, and there is every 
reason to expect that her genius has not reached its 
fullest development. 

Stockholm, May, 1898. 



Chaptbr Pagb 

I The Priest i 

II The Beggar 12 


I The Landscape 29 

II Christmas Eve 34 

III Christmas Day 49 

IV Gosta Berling, Poet 63 

V La Cachucha 79 

VI The Ball at Ekeby 84 

VII The Old Vehicles 106 

VIII The Great Bear in Gurlitta Cliff ... 122 

IX The Auction at Bjorne 138 

X The Young Countess 170 

XI Ghost-Stories 199 

XII Ebba Dohna's Story 214 

XIII Mamsellb Marie 236 


I Cousin Christopher 247 

II The Paths of Life 253 

III Penitence 268 

IV The Iron from Ekeby 280 


Chapter Page 

V Lilliecrona's Home 291 

VI The Witch of Dovre 298 

VII Midsummer 304 

VIII Madame Musica 309 

IX The Broby Clergyman 315 

X Patron Julius 321 

XI The Plaster Saints 329 

XII God's Wayfarer 337 

XIII The Churchyard 350 

XIV Old Songs 355 

XV Death, the Deliverer 367 

XVI The Drought 374 

XVII The Child's Mother 386 

XVIII Amor vincit Omnia 396 

XIX The Broom-Girl 403 

XX Kevenhuller 417 

XXI The Broby Fair 429 

XXII The Forest Cottage 438 

XXIII Margareta Celsing ^ . . • 456 

The Story of Gosta Berling 



At last the minister stood in the pulpit. The heads 
of the congfregation were lifted. Well, there he finally 
was. There would be no default this Sunday, as on 
the last and on many other Sundays before. 

The minister was young, tall, slender, and strik- 
ingly handsome. With a helmet on his head, and girt 
'with sword and shirt of mail, he could have been cut 
in marble and taken for an ideal of Grecian beauty. 

He had a poet's deep eyes, and a general's firm, 
rounded chin; everything about him was beautiful, 
noble, full of feeling, glowing with genius and spirit- 
ual life. 

The people in the church felt themselves strangely 
subdued to see him so. They were more used to 
see him come reeling out of the public house with 
his good friends, Beerencreutz, the Colonel with the 
thick, white moustaches, and the stalwart Captain 
Christian Bergh. 

He had drunk so deeply that he had not been able 
to attend to his duties for many weeks, and the con- 


gregation had been obliged to complain, first to the 
dean, and then to the bishop and the chapters. Now 
the bishop had come to the parish to make a strict 
inquiry. He sat in the choir with the gold cross on 
his breast ; the clergymen of the neighboring parishes 
sat round about him. 

There was no doubt that the minister's conduct had 
gone beyond the permissible limit. At that time, in 
the twenties, much in the matter of drinking was over- 
looked, but this man had deserted his post for the 
sake of drink, and now must lose it. 

He stood in the pulpit and waited while the last 
verse of the psalm was sung. 

A feeling came over him as he stood there, that he 
had only enemies in the church, enemies in all the 
seats. Among the gentry in the pews, among the 
peasants in the farther seats, among the little boys 
in the choir, he had enemies, none but enemies. It 
was an enemy who worked the organ-bellows, an 
enemy who played. In the churchwardens' pews he 
had enemies. They all hated him, every one, — from 
the children in arms, who were carried into the 
church, to the sexton, a formal and stiff old soldier, 
who had been at Leipsic. 

He longed to throw himself on his knees and to 
beg for mercy. 

But a moment after, a dull rage came over him. 
He remembered well what he had been when, a year 
ago, he first stood in this pulpit. He was then a 
blameless man, and now he stood there and looked 
down on the man with the gold cross on his breast, 
who had come to pass sentence on him. 

While he read the introduction, wave after wave of 
blood surged up in his face, — it was rage. 


It was true enough that he had drunk, but who 
had a right to blame him for that? Had they seen 
the vicarage where he had to live? Pine forests grew 
dark and gloomy close up to his windows. The 
dampness dripped from the black roofs and ran down 
the mouldy walls. Was not brandy needed to keep 
the spirits up when rain and driving snow streamed 
in through the broken panes, when the neglected 
earth would not give bread enough to keep hunger 

He thought that he was just such a minister as 
they deserved. For they all drank. Why should he 
alone control himself? The man who had buried 
his wife got drunk at the funeral feast; the father 
who had baptized his child had a carouse afterwards. 
The congregation drank on the way back from church, 
so that most of them were drunk when they reached 
home. A drunken priest was good enough for them. 

It was on his pastoral visits, when he drove in his 
thin cloak over miles of frozen seas, where all the icy 
winds met, it was when his boat was tossed about on 
these same seas in storm and pouring rain, it was 
when he must climb out of his sledge in blinding 
snow to clear the way for his horse through drifts 
high as houses, or when he waded through the forest 
swamps, — it was then that he learned to love brandy. 

The year had dragged itself out in heavy gloom. 
Peasant and master had passed their days with their 
thoughts on the soil, but at evening their spirits cast 
off their yokes, freed by brandy. Inspiration came, 
the heart grew warm, life became glowing, the song 
rang out, roses shed their perfume. The public-house 
bar-room seemed to him a tropical garden: grapes 
and olives hung down over his head, marble statues 


shone among dark leaves, songsters and poets wan- 
dered under the palms and plane-trees. 

No, he, the priest, up there in the pulpit, knew 
that without brandy life could not be borne in this end 
of the world; all his congregation knew that, and yet 
they wished to judge him. 

They wished to tear his vestments from him, be- 
cause he had come drunken into God's house. Oh, 
all these people, had they believed, did they want 
to believe, that they had any other God than 

He had finished the exordium, and he kneeled to 
say the Lord's Prayer. 

There was a breathless silence in the church during 
the prayer. But suddenly the minister with both 
hands caught hold of the ribbons which held his sur- 
plice. It seemed to him as if the whole congregation, 
with the bishop at the head, were stealing up the pul- 
pit steps to take his bands from him. He was kneel- 
ing and his head was turned away, but he could feel 
how they were dragging, and he saw them so plainly, 
the bishop and the deans, the clergymen, the church- 
wardens, the sexton, and the whole assemblage in a 
long line, tearing and straining to get his surplice off. 
And he could picture to himself how all these people 
who were dragging so eagerly would fall over one 
another down the steps when the bands gave way, 
and the whole row of them below, who had not got 
up as far as his cape, but only to the skirts of his coat, 
would also fall. , 

He saw it all so plainly that he had to smile as he 
knelt, but at the same time a cold sweat broke out on 
his forehead. The whole thing was too horrible. 

That he should now become a dishonored man for 


the sake of brandy. A clergyman, dismissed ! Was 
there anything on God's earth more wretched ? 

He should be one of the beggars at the roadside, 
lie drunk at the edge of a ditch, go dressed in rags, 
with vagrants for companions. 

The prayer was ended. He should read his sermon. 
Then a thought came to him and checked the words 
on his lips. He thought that it was the last time he 
should stand in the pulpit and proclaim the glory of 

For the last time — that took hold of him. He for- 
got the brandy and the bishop. He thought that he 
must use the chance, and testify to the glory of 

He thought that the floor of the church with all 
his hearers sank deep, deep down, and the roof was 
lifted off, so that he saw far into the sky. He stood 
alone, quite alone in his pulpit; his spirit took its 
flight to the heavens opened above him ; his voice be- 
came strong and powerful, and he proclaimed the 
glory of God. 

He was inspired. He left: what he had written; 
thoughts came to him like a flock of tame doves. He 
felt, as if it were not he who spoke, but he felt too 
that it was the best earth had to give, and that no 
one could reach a greater height of brilliancy and 
splendor than he who stood there and proclaimed 
the glory of God. 

As long as the flame of inspiration burned in him 
he continued to speak, but when it died out, and the 
roof sank down over the church, and the floor came 
up again from far, far below, he bowed his head and 
wept, for he^ thought that the best of life, for him, was 
now over. 


After the service came the inspection and the ves- 
try meeting. The bishop asked if the congregation 
had any complaints to make against their clergyman. 

The minister was no longer angry and defiant as 
before the sermon. Now he was ashamed and hung 
his head. Oh, all the miserable brandy stories, which 
were coming now ! 

But none came. There was a deep silence about 
the long table in the parish-hall. 

The minister looked first at the sexton, — no, he was 
silent ; then at the churchwardens, then at the power- 
ful peasants and mine-owners; they were all silent. 
They sat with their lips pressed close together and 
looked embarrassed down on the table. 

"They are waiting for somebody to begin," thought 
the minister. 

One of the churchwardens cleared his throat. 

" I think we 've got a fine minister," he said. 

" Your Reverence has heard how he preaches," in- 
terrupted the sexton. 

The bishop spoke of repeated absences. 

"The minister has the right to be ill, as well as 
another," was the peasants' opinion. 

The bishop hinted at their dissatisfaction with the 
minister's mode of life. 

They defended him with one voice. He was so 
young, their minister; there was nothing wrong 
with him. No ; if he would only always preach as he 
had done to-day they would not exchange him for 
the bishop himself. 

There were no accusers ; there could be no judge. 

The minister felt how his heart swelled and how 
swiftly the blood flew through his veihs. Could it 
be that he was no longer among enemies; that he 


had won them over when he had least thought of it ; 
that he should still be their priest? 

After the inspection the bishop and the clergymen 
of the neighborhood and the deans and the chief 
men of the parish dined at the vicarage. The wife 
of one of the neighbors had taken charge of the 
dinner; for the minister was not married. She had 
arranged it all so well that it made him open his eyes, 
for the vicarage was not so dreadful. The long 
dining-table was spread out under the pines and 
shone with its white cloth, with its blue and white 
china, its glittering glass and folded napkins. Two 
birches bent over the door, the floor of the entry was 
strewn with rushes, a wreath of flowers hung from 
the rafters, there were flowers in all the rooms ; the 
mouldy smell was gone, and the green window-panes 
shone bravely in the sunshine. 

He was glad to the bottom of his heart, the min- 
ister ; he thought that he would never drink again. 

There was not one who was not glad at that dinner- 
table. Those who had been generous and had for- 
given were glad, and the priests in authority were 
glad because they had escaped a scandal. 

The good bishop raised his glass and said that he 
had started on this journey with a heavy heart, for 
he had heard many evil rumors. He had gone forth 
to meet Saul, but lo, Saul was already changed to a 
Paul, who should accomplish more than any of them. 
And the worthy man spoke of the rich gifts which 
their young brother possessed, and praised them. 
Not that he should be proud, but that he should 
strain every nerve and keep a close watch over him- 
self, as he must do who bears an exceedingly heavy 
and costly burden on his shoulders. 


The minister was not drunk at that dinner, but he 
was intoxicated. All this great unlooked-for happi- 
ness went to his head. Heaven had let the flame of 
inspiration burn in him, and these people had given 
him their love. His blood was at fever heat, and at 
raging speed rushed through his veins still when the 
evening came and his guests departed. Far into the 
night he sat awake in his room, and let the night air 
stream in through the open window to cool this fever 
of happiness, this pleasant restlessness which would 
not let him sleep. 

He heard a voice. 

"Are you awake?" 

A man came over the lawn up to the window. The 
minister looked out and recognized Captain Christian 
Bergh, one of his trusty boon-companions. He was 
a wayfarer without house or land, this Captain Bergh, 
and a giant in stature and strength ; big was he as 
Goliath, malicious and stupid as a mountain goblin. 

" Of course I am up, Captain Christian," answered 
the minister. " Do you think I could sleep to-night? " 

And hear now what this Captain Bergh says to 
him ! The giant had guessed, he had understood, 
that the minister would now be afraid to drink. He 
would never have any peace, thought Captain Chris- 
tian ; for those priests from Karlstad, who had been 
here once, could come again and take his surplice 
from him if he drank. 

But now Captain Christian had put his heavy hand 
to the good work ; now he had arranged that those 
priests never should come agaio, neither they nor 
the bishop. Henceforth the minister and his friends 
could drink as much as they liked at the vicarage. 

Hear what a deed he had done, he, Christian 


Bergh, the mighty Captain. When the bishop and 
the two deans had climbed into their closed carriage, 
and the doors had been shut tight on them, then he 
had mounted on the box and driven them ten miles 
or so in the light summer night. 

And then had Christian Bergh taught the reverend 
gentlemen how loose life sits in the human body. 
He had let the horses run at the maddest pace. That 
was because they would not let an honorable man get 
drunk in peace. 

Do you suppose he followed the road with them ; 
do you believe he saved them from jolts ? He drove 
over ditches and ploughed fields ; he drove in a dizzy 
gallop down the hills ; he drove along the water's edge, 
till the waves covered the wheels ; he almost stuck in 
a bog; he drove down over bare rocks, where the 
horses slid with legs held stiff. 

And all the time the bishop and the priests sat 
with blanched faces behind the leather curtains and 
murmured prayers. It was the worst journey they 
had ever made. 

And think how they must have looked when they 
came to Rissater's inn, living, but shaken like shot in 
a leather pouch. 

"What does this mean, Captain Christian?'* says 
the bishop, as he opens the door for them. 

** It means that you shall think twice, bishop, before 
you make a new journey of inspection to Gosta Ber- 
ling," says Captain Christian ; and he had thought 
that sentence well out beforehand, so as not to get it 

" Tell Gosta Berling," says the bishop, " that to 
him neither I nor any other bishop will ever come 


This exploit the mighty Captain Christian stands 
and relates at the open window in the summer night. 
For Captain Christian has only just left the horses at 
the inn, and has come directly to the minister with 
his news. 

" Now you can be at rest, comrade," he says. 

Ah, Captain Christian, the clergymen sat with pale 
faces behind the leather curtains, but the priest at 
the window looks in the bright summer night far, far 
paler. Ah, Captain Christian ! 

The minister raised his arm and measured a terrible 
blow at the giant's coarse, stupid face, but checked 
himself He shut the window with a bang, and stood 
in the middle of the room, shaking his clenched fist 
on high. 

He in whom the fire of inspiration had flamed, he 
who had been able to proclaim the glory of God, 
stood there and thought that God had made a fool 
of him. 

Would not the bishop believe that Captain Chris- 
tian had been sent by the minister? Would he not 
believe that he had dissembled and lied the whole 
day? Now he would investigate everything about 
him in earnest; now he would suspend him and 
dismiss him. 

When the dawn broke the minister was far from 
his home. He did not care to stay and defend him- 
self God had mocked at him. God would not help 
him. He knew that he would be dismissed. God 
would have it. He might as well go at once. 

All this happened in the beginning of the twenties 
in a far-a-way parish in Western Varmland. 

It was the first misfortune which befell Gosta Ber- 
ling ; it was not the last. 



For colts who cannot bear spur or whips find life 
hard. For every pain which comes to them they 
bolt down wild ways to yawning chasms. As soon 
as the road is stony and the way hard they know no 
other remedy than to cast off their load and rush 
away in frenzy. 




One cold December day a beggar came wandering 
up the slopes of Broby. He was dressed in the 
most miserable rags, and his shoes were so worn that 
the cold snow wet his feet. 

Lofven is a long, narrow lake in Varmland, inter- 
sected in several places by long narrow sounds. In the 
north it stretches up to the Finn forests, in the south 
down to the lake Vaner. There are many parishes 
along its shores, but the parish of Bro is the largest 
and richest. It takes up a large part of the lake's 
shores both on the east and west sides, but on the 
west side are the largest estates, such as Ekeby and 
Bjorne, known far and wide for wealth and beauty, 
and Broby, with its large village and inn, court- 
house, sheriff-quarters, vicarage, and market-place. 

Broby lies on a steep slope. The beggar had 
come past the inn, which lies at the foot of the hill, 
and was struggling up towards the parsonage, which 
lies at the top. 

A little girl went in front of him up the hill ; she 
dragged a sledge laden with a bag of meal. The 
beggar caught up with the child and began to talk 
to her. 

"A little horse for such a heavy load," he said. 

The child turned and looked at him. She was a 


little creature about twelve years old, with sharp, 
suspicious eyes, and lips pressed together. 

"Would to God the horse was smaller and the 
load larger; it might last longer," answered the 

"Is it then your own food you are dragging 

" By God's grace it is ; I have to get my own food, 
although I am so little." 

The beggar seized the sled rope to drag it up. 

The girl turned and looked at him. 

"You needn't think that you will get anything 
for this," she said. 

The beggar laughed. 

" You must be the daughter of the Broby clergy- 

** Yes, yes, I am indeed. Many have poorer fathers, 
but none have worse. That's the Lord's truth, al- 
though it's a shame that his own child should have 
to say it." 

" I hear he is mean and ill-natured, your father." 

"Mean he is, and ill-natured he is, but they say 
his daughter will be worse if she lives so long ; that 's 
what people say." 

" I fancy people are right. What I would like to 
know is, where you found this meal-bag." 

" It makes no difference if I tell you. I took the 
grain out of father's store-house this morning, and 
now I have been to the mill." 

" May he not see you when you come dragging it 
behind you?" 

" You have left school too early. Father is away 
on his parish visits, can't you see?" 

" Somebody is driving up the hill behind us ; I 


hear the creaking of the runners. Think if it were 
he who is coming ! " 

The girl listened and peered down, then she burst 
into tears. 

" It is father," she sobbed. " He will kill me ! He 
will kill me ! " 

" Yes, good advice is now precious, and prompt 
advice better than silver and gold," said the beggar. 

" Look here," said the child, " you can help me. 
Take the rope and drag the sledge ; then father will 
believe it is yours." 

" What shall I do with it afterwards ? " asked the 
beggar, and put the rope round his shoulders. 

"Take it where you like for the moment, but 
come up to the parsonage with it when it is dark. 
I shall be looking out for you. You are to come 
with the bag and the sledge, you understand." 

" I shall try." 

" God help you if you don't come ! " called the 
girl, while she ran, hurrying to get home before her 

The beggar turned the sledge with a heavy heart 
and dragged it down to the inn. 

The poor fellow had had his dream, as he went in 
the snow with half-naked feet. He had thought of 
the great woods north of lake Lofven, of the great 
Finn forests. 

Here in the parish of Bro, where he was now 
wandering along the sound which connects the upper 
and lower Lofven, — in this rich and smiling country, 
where one estate joins another, factory lies near fac- 
tory, — here all the roads seemed to him too heavy, 
the rooms too small, the beds too hard. Here he 
longed for the peace of the great, eternal forests. 


Here he heard the blows echoing in all the barns 
as they threshed out the grain. Loads of timber and 
charcoal-vans kept coming down from the inexhaust- 
ible forests. Endless loads of metal followed the 
deep ruts which the hundreds gone before had cut. 
Here he saw sleighs filled with travellers speed from 
house to house, and it seemed to him as if pleasure 
held the reins, and beauty and love stood on the 
runners. Oh, how he longed for the peace of the 

There the trees rise straight and pillarlike from 
the even ground, there the snow rests in heavy layers 
on the motionless pines, there the wind is powerless 
and only plays softly in the topmost leaves, there he 
would wander deeper and still farther in, until at last 
his strength would fail him, and he would drop under 
the great trees, dying of hunger and cold. 

He longed for the great murmuring grave above 
the Lofven, where he would be overcome by the 
powers^ of annihilation, where at last hunger, cold, 
fatigue, and brandy should succeed in destroying his 
poor body, which had endured everything. 

He came down to the inn to await the evening. 
He went into the bar-rooiii and threw himself down 
on a bench by the door, dreaming of the eternal 

The innkeeper's wife felt sorry for him and gave 
him a glass of brandy. She even gave him another, 
he implored her so eagerly. 

But more she would not give him, and the beggar 
was in despair. He must have more of the strong, 
sweet brandy. He must once again feel his heart 
dance in his body and his thoughts flame up in in- 
toxication. Oh, that sweet spirit of the corn ! 


The summer sun, the song of the birds, perfume 
and beauty floated in its white wave. Once more, 
before he disappears into the night and the darkness, 
let him drink sunshine and happiness. 

So he bartered first the meal, then the meal-sack, 
and last the sledge, for brandy. On it he got thor- 
oughly drunk, and slept the greater part of the after- 
noon on a bench in the bar-room. 

When he awoke he understood that there was left 
for him only one thing to do. Since his miserable 
body had taken possession of his soul, since he had 
been capable of drinking up what a child had con- 
fided to him, since he was a disgrace to the earth, he 
must free it of the burden of such wretchedness. He 
must give his soul its liberty, let it go to its God. 

He lay on the bench in the bar-room and passed 
sentence on himself: ** Gosta Berling, dismissed priest, 
accused of having drunk up the food of a hungry 
child, is condemned to death. What death? Death 
in the snow-drifts." 

He seized his cap and reeled out. He was neither 
quite awake nor quite sober. He wept in pity for 
himself, for his poor, soiled soul, which he must set 

He did not go far, and did not turn from the road. 
At the very roadside lay a deep drift, and there he 
threw himself down to die. He closed his eyes and 
tried to sleep. 

No one knows how long he lay there ; but there 
was still life in him when the daughter of the minister 
of Broby came running along the road with a lantern 
in her hand, and found him in the drift by the road- 
side. She had stood for hours and waited for him ; 
now she had run down Broby hill to look for him. 


She recognized him instantly, and she began to 
shake him and to scream with all her might to get 
him awake. 

She must know what he had done with her meal- 

She must call him back to life, at least for so long a 
time that he could tell her what had become of her 
sledge and her meal-bag. Her father would kill her 
if she had lost his sledge. She bit the beggar's fin- 
ger and scratched his face, and at the same time she 
screamed madly. 

Then some one came driving along the road. 

" Who the devil is screaming so ? " asked a harsh 

" I want to know what this fellow has done with my 
meal-bag and my sledge," sobbed the child, and beat 
with clenched fists on the beggar's breast. 

" Are you clawing a frozen man? Away with you, 
wild-cat ! " 

The traveller was a large and coarse woman. She 
got out of the sleigh and came over to the drift. She 
took the child by the back of the neck and threw her 
on one side. Then she leaned over, thrust her arms 
under the beggar's body, and lifted him up. Then 
she carried him to the sleigh and laid him in it. 

" Come with me to the inn, wild-cat," she called to 
the child, " that we may hear what. you know of all 

An hour later the beggar sat on a chair by the 
door in the best room of the inn, and in front of him 
stood the powerful woman who had rescued him 
from the drift. 

Just as Gosta Berling now saw her, on her way 


home from the charcoal kilns, with sooty hands, and 
a clay-pipe in her mouth, dressed in a short, unlined 
sheepskin jacket and striped homespun skirt, with 
tarred shoes on her feet and a sheath-knife in her 
bosom, as he saw her with gray hair combed back 
from an old, beautiful face, so had he heard her de- 
scribed a thousand times, and he knew that he had 
come across the far-famed major's wife of Ekeby. 

She was the most influential woman in all Varm- 
land, mistress of seven iron-works, accustomed to 
command and to be obeyed ; and he was only a poor, 
condemned man, stripped of everything, knowing that 
every road was too heavy for him, every room too 
crowded. His body shook with terror, while her 
glance rested on him. 

She stood silent and looked at the human wretch- 
edness before her, the red, swollen hands, the ema- 
ciated form, and the splendid head, which even in its 
ruin and neglect shone in wild beauty. 

** You are Gosta Berling, the mad priest? '* she said, 
peering at him. 

The beggar sat motionless. 

" I am the mistress of Ekeby." 

A shudder passed over the beggar's body. He 
clasped his hands and raised his eyes with a longing 
glance. What would she do with him ? Would she 
force him to live? He shook before her strength. 
And yet he had so nearly reached the peace of the 
eternal forests. 

She began the struggle by telling him the minister's 
daughter had got her sledge and her meal-sack again, 
and that she, the major's wife, had a shelter for him 
as for so many other homeless wretches in the bach- 
elor's wing at Ekeby. 


She offered him a life of idleness and pleasure, but 
he answered he must die. 

Then she struck the table with her clenched fist 
and let him hear what she thought of him. 

" So you want to die, that 's what you want. That 
would not surprise me, if you were alive. Look, such 
a wasted body and such' powerless limbs and such 
dull eyes, and you think that there is something left 
of you to die. Do you think that you have to lie 
stiff and stark with a coffin-lid nailed down over you 
to be dead ? Don't you believe that I stand here and 
see how dead you are, Gosta Berling? 

" I see that you have a skull for a head, and it seems 
to me as if the worms were creeping out of the 
sockets of your eyes. Do you not feel that your 
mouth is full of dust? Do you not hear how your 
bones rattle when you move? 

** You have drowned yourself in brandy, Gosta Ber- 
ling, and you are dead. 

"That which now moves in you is only death 
spasms, and you will not allow them to live, if you call 
that life. It is just as if you grudged the dead a dance 
over the graves in the star-light. 

" Are you ashamed that you were dismissed, since 
you wish to die now? It would have been more to 
your honor had you made use of your gifts and been 
of some use on God's green earth, I tell you. Why 
did you not come directly to me? I should have 
arranged everything for you. Yes, now you ex- 
pect much glory from being wrapped in a winding- 
sheet and laid on saw-dust and called a beautiful 

The beggar sat calm, almost smiling, while she 
thundered out her angry words. There was no danger, 


he rejoiced, no danger. The eternal forests wait, and 
she has no power to turn thy soul from them. 

But the major's wife was silent and walked a couple 
of times up and down the room ; then she took a seat 
before the fire, put her feet on the fender, and leaned 
her elbows on her knees. 

"Thousand devils !" she said, and laughed softly to 
herself. " It is truer, what I am saying, than I myself 
thought. Pon*t you believe, Gosta Berling, that most 
of the people in this world are dead or half-dead ? 
Do you think that I am aUve ? No ! No, indeed ! 

*' Yes, look at me ! I am the mistress of Ekeby, and 
I am the most powerful in Varmland. If I wave one 
finger the governor comes, if I wave with two the 
bishop comes, and if I wave with three all the chapter 
and the aldermen and mine-owners in Varmland dance 
to my music in Karlstad's market-place. A thousand 
devils ! Boy, I tell you that I am only a dressed-up 
corpse. God knows how little life there is in me." 

The beggar leaned forward on his chair and listened 
with strained attention. The old woman sat and 
rocked before the fire. She did not look at him, while 
she talked. 

" Don't you know," she continued, " that if I were 
a living being, and saw you sitting there, wretched and 
deplorable with suicidal thoughts, don't you believe 
that I should take them out of you in a second ? I 
should have tears for you and prayers, which would 
turn you upside down, and I should save your soul ; 
but now I am dead. 

"Have you heard that I once was the beautiful 
Margareta Celsing? That was not yesterday, but I 
can still sit and weep my old eyes red for her. Why 
shall Margareta Celsing be dead, and Margareta 


Samzelius live? Why shall the major's wife at Ekebjr 
live ? — tell me that, Gosta Berling. 

"Do you know what Margareta Celsing was like? 
She was slender and delicate and modest and innocent, 
Gosta Berling. She was one over whose grave 
angels weep. 

" She knew nothing of evil, no one had ever given 
her pain, she was good to all. And she was beautiful, 
really beautiful. 

" There was a man, his name was Altringer. God 
knows how he happened to be travelling up there in 
Alfdal wildernesses, where her parents had their iron- 
works. Margareta Celsing saw him ; he was a hand- 
some man, and she loved him. 

" But he was poor, and they agreed to wait for one 
another five years, as it is in the legend. When three 
years had passed another suitor came. He was ugly 
and bad, but her parents believed that he was rich, 
and they forced Margareta Celsing, by fair means and 
foul, by blows and hard words, to take him for her hus- 
band. And that day, you see, Margareta Celsing died. 

" After that there was no Margareta Celsing, only 
Major Samzelius's wife, and she was not good nor 
modest ; she believed in much evil and never thought 
of the good. 

" You know well enough what happened afterwards. 
We lived at Sjo by the Lake Lofven, the major and I. 
But he was not rich, as people had said. I often had 
hard days. 

" Then Altringer came again, and now he was rich. 
He became master of Ekeby, which lies next to Sjo ; 
he made himself master of six other estates by Lake 
Lofven. He was able, thrifty; he was a man of 


" He helped us in our poverty ; we drove in his 
carriages ; he sent food to our kitchen, wine to our 
cellar. He filled my life with feasting and pleasure. 
The major went off to the wars, but what did we care 
for that? One day I was a guest at Ekeby, the next 
he came to Sjo. Oh, it was like a long dance of 
delight on Lofven's shores. 

" But there was evil talk of Altringer and me. If 
Margareta Celsing had been living, it would have 
given her much pain, but it made no difference to me. 
But as yet I did not understand that it was because I 
was dead that I had no feeling. 

"At last the tales of us reached my father and 
mother, as they went among the charcoal kilns up in 
Alfdal's forest. My mother did not stop to think; 
she travelled hither to talk to me. 

" One day, when the major was away and I sat dining 
with Altringer and several others, she arrived. I saw 
her come into the room, but I could not feel that she 
was my mother, Gosta Berling. I greeted her as a 
stranger, and invited her to sit down at my table and 
take part in the meal. 

" She wished to talk with me, as if I had been her 
daughter, but I said to her that she was mistaken, 
that my parents were dead, they had both died on my 
wedding day. 

" Then she agreed to the comedy. She was sixty 
years old ; a hundred and twenty miles had she driven 
in three days. Now she sat without ceremony at the 
dinner-table and ate her food ; she was a strong and 
capable woman. 

" She said that it was very sad that I had had such a 
loss just on that day. 

" * The saddest thing was,' I said, * that my parents 


did not die a day sooner ; then the wedding would 
never have taken place/ 

" ' Is not the gracious lady pleased with her mar- 
riage?' she then asked. 

" * Oh, yes/ said I, ' I am pleased. I shall always 
be pleased to obey my dear parents' wish ! ' 

" She asked if it had been my parents' wish that I 
should heap shame upon myself and them and deceive 
my husband. I did my parents little honor by mak- 
ing myself a byword in every man's mouth. 

" ' They must lie as they have made their bed/ I 
answered her. And morever I wished her to under- 
stand, that I did not intend to allow any one to calum- 
niate my parents' daughter. 

•* We ate, we two. The men about us sat silent and 
could not lift knife nor fork. 

" She stayed a day to rest, then she went But all 
the time I saw her, I could not understand that she 
was my mother. I only knew that my mother was 

" When she was ready to leave, Gosta Berling, and I 
stood beside her on the steps, and the carriage was 
before the door, she said to me : — 

" ' Twenty-four hours have I been here, without your 
greeting me as your mother. By lonely roads I came 
here, a hundred and twenty miles in three days. And 
for shame for you my body is trembling, as if it had 
been beaten with rods. May you be disowned, as I 
have been disowned, repudiated as I have been repu- 
diated ! May the highway be your home, the hay- 
stack your bed, the charcoal-kiln your stove ! May 
shame and dishonor be your reward ; may others strike 
you, as I strike you ! ' 

" And she gave me a heavy blow on the cheek. 


" But I lifted her up, carried her down the steps, and 
put her in her carriage. 

" * Who are you, that you curse me? ' I asked ; * who 
are you that you strike me ? That I will suffer from 
no one/ 

" And I gave her the blow again. 

*' The carriage drove away, but then, at that moment, 
Gosta Berling, I knew that Margareta Celsing was 

'* She was good and innocent ; she knew no evil. 
Angels had wept at her grave. If she had lived, she 
would not have struck her mother." 

The beggar by the door had listened, and the words 
for a moment had drowned the sound of the eternal 
forests* alluring murmur. For see, this great lady, 
she made herself his equal in sin, his sister in perdi- 
tion, to give him courage to live. For he should learn 
that sorrow and wrong-doing weighed down other 
heads tha^^ his. He rose and went over to the major's 

" Will you live now? Gosta Berling? " she asked with 
a voice which broke with tears. " Why should you 
die? You could have been such a good priest, but 
it was never Gosta Berling whom you drowned in 
brandy, he as gleamingly innocent-white as that Mar- 
gareta Celsing I suffocated in hate. Will you live?" 

Gosta fell on his knees before her. 
Forgive me," he said, " I cannot." 
I ahi an old woman, hardened by much sorrow," 
answered the major's wife, "and I sit here and give 
myself as a prize to a beggar, whom I have found 
half-frozen in a snow-drift by the roadside. It serves 
me right Let him go and kill himself; then at least 
he won't be able to tell of my folly." 


" I am no suicide, I am condemned to die. Do not 
make the struggle too hard for me ! I may not live. 
My body has taken possession of my soul, therefore 
I must let it escape and go to God." 

" And so you believe you will get there?" 

" Farewell, and thank you ! " 

" Farewell, Grosta Berling." 

The beggar rose and walked with hanging head and 
dragging step to the door. This woman made the 
way up to the great forests heavy for him. 

When he came to the door, he had to look back. 
Then he met her glance, as she sat still and looked 
after him. He had never seen such a change in any 
face, and he stood and stared at her. She, who had 
just been angry and threatening, sat transfigured, and 
her eyes shone with a pitying, compassionate love. 

There was something in him, in his own wild heart, 
which burst before that glance ; he leaned his fore- 
head against the door-post, stretched his arms up over 
his head, and wept as if his heart would break. 

The major's wife tossed her clay pipe into the fire 
and came over to Gosta. Her movements were as ten- 
der as a mother's. 

" There, there, my boy ! " 

And she got him down beside her on the bench by 
the door, so that he wept with his head on her knees. 

•'Will you still die?" 

Then he wished to rush away. She had to hold 
him back by force. 

'• Now I tell you that you may do as you please. 
But I promise you that, if you will live, I will take to 
me the daughter of the Broby minister and make a 
human being of her, so that she can thank her God 
that you stole her meal. Now will you? " 


He raised his head and looked her right in the eyes. 

'* Do you mean it? " 

" I do, G5sta Beriing." 

Then he wrung his hands in anguish. He saw 
before him the peering eyes, the compressed lips, 
the wasted little hands. This young creature would 
get protection and care, and the marks of degradation 
be effaced from her body, anger from her soul. Now 
the way up to the eternal forests was closed to him. 

" I shall not kill myself as long as she is under 
your care," he said. ** I knew well enough that you 
would force me to live. I felt that you were stronger 
than I." 

" Gosta Berling," she said solemnly, " I have fought 
for you as for myself. I said to God: *If there is 
anything of Margareta Celsing living in me, let her 
come forward and show herself, so that this man may 
not go and kill himself.' And He granted it, and you 
saw her, and therefore you could not go. And she 
whispered to me that for that poor child's sake you 
would give up your plan of dying. Ah, you fly, you 
wild birds, but our Lord knows the net which will 
catch you." 

" He is a great and wonderful God," said Gosta 
Berling. " He has mocked me and cast me out, but 
He will not let me die. May His will be done ! " 

From that day Gosta Berling became a guest at 
Ekeby. Twice he tried to leave and make himself a 
way to live by his own work. The first time the 
major's wife gave him a cottage near Ekeby ; he 
moved thither and meant to live as a laborer. This 
succeeded for a while, but he soon wearied of the 
loneliness and the daily labor, and again returned as 
a guest. There was another time, when he became 


tutor at Borg for Count Henry Dohna. During this 
time he fell in love with the young Ebba Dohna, the 
count's sister ; but when she died, just as he thought 
he had nearly won her, he gave up every thought of 
being anything but guest at Ekeby. It seemed to 
him that for a dismissed priest all ways to make 
amends were closed. 





I MUST now describe the long lake, the rich plains 
and the blue mountains, sipce they were the scene 
where Gosta Berling and the other knights of Ekeby 
passed their joyous existence. 

The lake has its sources far up in the north, and 
it is a perfect country for a lake. The forest and 
the mountains never cease to collect water for it ; 
rivulets and brooks stream into it the whole year 
round. It has fine white sand to stretch itself over, 
headlands and islands to mirror and to look at, river 
sprites and sea nymphs have free play room there, 
and it quickly grows large and beautiful. There, 
in the north, it is smiling and friendly; one needs 
but to see it on a summer morning, when it lies half 
awake under a veil of mist, to perceive how gay it 
is. It plays first for a while, creeps softly, softly, 
out of its light covering, so magically beautiful that 
one can hardly recognize it ; but then it casts from 
it, suddenly, the whole covering, and lies there bare 
and uncovered and rosy, shining in the morning 


But the lake is not content with this life of play; 
it draws itself together to a narrow strait, breaks its 
way out through the sand-hills to the south, and 
seeks out a new kingdom for itself. And such a 
one it also finds ; it gets larger and more powerful, 
has bottomless depths to fill, and a busy landscape 
to adorn. And now its water is darker, its shores 
less varying, its winds sharper, its whole character 
more severe. It has become a stately and magnifi- 
cent lake. Many are the ships and the rafts of tim- 
ber which pass there ; late in the year it finds time 
to take its winter rest, rarely before Christmas. 
Often is it in peevish mood, when it grows white 
with wrath and drags down sailing-boats ; but it can 
also lie in a dreamy calm and reflect the heavens. 

But still farther out into the world will the lake 
go, although the mountains become bolder and space 
narrower; still farther down it comes, so that it once 
again must creep as a narrow strait between sand- 
bound shores. Then it broadens out for the third 
time, but no longer with the same beauty and 

The shores sink down and become tame, gentler 
winds blow, the lake takes its winter rest early. It 
is still beautiful, but it has lost youth's giddiness 
and manhood's strength — it is now a lake like any 
other. With two arms it gropes after a way to Lake 
Vanem, and when that is found it throws itself with 
the feebleness of old age over the slopes and goes 
with a last thundering leap to rest. 

The plain is as long as the lake; but it has no 
easy time to find a place between sea and mountain, 
all the way from the valley of the basin at the lake's 
northern end, where it first dares to spread itself 


out, till it lays itself to easy rest by the Vanern's 
shore. There is no doubt that the plain would 
Tather follow the shore of the lake, long as it is, but 
the mountains give it no peace. The mountains are 
mighty granite walls, covered with woods, full of 
cliffs difficult to cross, rich in moss and lichen, — 
in those old days the home of many wild things. 

On the far-stretching ridges one often comes upon 
a wet swamp or a pool with dark water. Here and 
there is a charcoal kiln or an open patch where tim- 
ber and wood have been cut, or a burnt clearing, and 
these all bear witness that there is work going on on 
the mountains; but as a rule they lie in careless 
peace and amuse themselves with watching the lights 
and shadows play over their slopes, 

And with these mountains the plain, which is 
peaceful and rich, and loves work, wages a perpet- 
ual war, in a friendly spirit, however. 

"It is quite enough," says the plain to the moun- 
tains ; " if you set up your walls about me, that is 
safety enough for me." 

But the mountains will not listen. They send 
out long rows of hills and barren table-lands way 
down to the lake. They raise great look-out towers 
on every promontory, and leave the shores of the 
lake so seldom that the plain can but rarely stretch 
itself out by the soft, broad sands. But it does not 
help to complain. 

"You ought to be glad that we stand here," the 
mountains say. "Think of that time before Christ- 
mas, when the icy fogs, day after day, rolled up from 
the Lofven. We do you good service. " 

The plain complains that it has no space and 
an ugly view. 


" You are so stupid, " answer the mountains ; " if 
you could only feel how it is blowing down here by 
the lake. One needs at least a granite back and a 
fir-tree jacket to withstand it. And, besides, you 
can be glad to have us to look at." 

Yes, looking at the mountains, that is just what 
the plain is doing. It knows so well all the won- 
derful shiftings of light and shade, which pass over 
them. It knows how they sink down in the noon- 
day heat towards the horizon, low and a dim light- 
blue, and in the morning or evening light raise their 
venerable heights, clear blue as the sky at noon. 

Sometimes the light falls so sharply over them 
that they look green or dark-blue, and every sepa- 
rate fir-tree, each path and cleft, is visible miles 

There are places where the mountains draw back 
and allow the plain to come forward and gaze at the 
lake. But when it sees the lake in its anger, hiss- 
ing and spitting like a wildcat, or sees it covered 
with that cold mist which happens when the sea- 
sprite is busy with brewing or washing, then it 
agrees that the mountains were right, and draws 
back to its narrow prison again. 

Men have cultivated the beautiful plain time out 
of mind, and have built much there. Wherever a 
stream in white foaming falls throws itself down the 
slope, rose up factories and mills. On the bright, 
open places, where the plain came down to the lake, 
churches and vicarages were built ; but on the edges 
of the valley, half-way up the slope, on stony 
grounds, where grain would not grow, lie farm- 
houses and officers' quarters, and here and there a 


Still, in the twenties, this district was not nearly 
so much cultivated as now. Many were the woods 
and lakes and swamps which now can be tilled. 
There were not so many people either, and they 
earned their living partly by carting and day labor 
at the many factories, partly by working at neigh- 
boring places ; agriculture could not feed them. At 
that time they went dressed in homespun, ate oat- 
cakes, and were satisfied with a wage of ten cents a 
day. Many were in great want ; but life was often 
made easier for them by a light and glad temper, 
and by an inborn handiness and capability. 

And all those three, the long lake, the rich plain, 
and the blue mountains, made the most beautiful 
scenery, and still do, just as the people are still to 
this day, strong, brave and intelligent. Great prog- 
ress has been made, however, in prosperity and 

May everything go well with those who live far 
away by the long lake and the blue mountains 1 I 
shall now recall some of their memories. 





SiNTRAM is the name of the wicked master of the 
works at Fors, with his clumsy ape-body, and his 
long arms, with his bald head and ugly, grinning 
face, — he whose delight is to make mischief. 

Sintram it is who takes only vagrants and bullies 
for workmen, and has only quarrelsome, lying 
maids in his service; he who excites dogs to mad- 
ness by sticking pins in their noses, and lives hap- 
piest among evil people and fierce beasts. 

It is Sintram whose greatest pleasure is to dress 
himself up in the foul fiend's likeness, with horns, 
and tail, and cloven hoof, and hairy body, and sud- 
denly appearing from dark comers, from behind the 
stove or the wood-pile, to frighten timid children, 
and superstitious women. 

It is Sintram who delights to change old friend- 
ship to new hate, and to poison the heart with lies. 

Sintram is his name — and one day he came to 

Drag the great wood-sledge into the smithy, put 
it in the middle of the floor, and lay a cart-bottom 
on the frame ! There we have a table. Hurrah for 
the table ; the table is ready ! 

Come now with chairs, with everything which will 
serve for a seat! Come with three-legged stools 



and empty boxes ! Come with ragged old arm-chairs 
without any backs, and push up the runner less sleigh 
and the old coach! Ha, ha, ha, up with the old 
coach; it shall be the speaker's chair! 

Just look ; one wheel gone, and the whole bottom 
out! Only the coach-box is left. The cushion is 
thin and worn, its moss stuffing coming through, 
the leather is red with age. High as a house is the 
old wreck. Prop it up, prop it up, or down it will 

Hurrah ! Hurrah ! It is Christmas eve at Ekeby. 

Behind the broad bed's silken curtains sleep the 
major and the major's wife, sleep and believe that 
the bachelors' wing sleeps. The men-servants and 
maids can sleep, heavy with feasting and the bitter 
Christmas ale; but not their masters in the bach-» 
elors' wing. How can any one think that* the 
bachelors' wing sleeps.? 

Sleeps, sleeps (oh, child of man, sleeps!), when 
the pensioners are awake. The long tongs stand 
upright on the floor, with tallow candles in their 
claws. From the mammoth kettle of shining copper 
flames the blue fire of the burning brandy, high up 
to the dark roof. Beerencreutz's horn-lantern hangs 
on the forge-hammer. The yellow punch glows in 
the bowl like a bright sun. The pensioners are 
celebrating Christmas eve in the smithy. 

There is mirth and bustle. Fancy, if the major's 
wife should see them ! 

What then? Probably she would sit down with 
them and empty a bumper. She is a doughty woman ; 
she 's not afraid of a thundering drinking-song or to 
take a hand at killed The richest woman in Varm- 

^ A Swedish game of cards. 

■ I 


land, as bold as a man, proud as a queen. Songs \ 
she loves, and sounding fiddles, and the huntingi^'j 
horn. She likes wine and games of cards, and tables 
surrounded by merry guests are her delight. She 
likes to see the larder emptied, to have dancing and 
merry-making in chamber and hall, and the bache- 
lors' wing full of pensioners. 

See them round about the bowl ! Twelve are they, 
twelve men. Not butterflies nor dandies, but men 
whose fame will not soon die out in Varmland ; bnU^e 
men and strong. g* 

Not dried-up parchment, nor close-fisted money- 
bags ; poor men, witliout a care, gentlemen th| whole 
day long. ^ 

No mother's daffKlts, no sleepy masters gA their 
own estates. Wsjpfffing men, cheerful men, Rights 
of afdiundred adytaftc^ 

Now for many yeArs the bachelors' wing has stood 
empty. Ekeby is no longer the chosen refuge of 
homeless gentlemen. Pensioned officers and impov- 
erished noblemen no longer drive about Varmland 
in shaky one-horse vehicles. But let the dead live, 
let them rise up in their glad, careless, eternal 
youth ! • 

All these notorious men could play on one or 
several instruments. All were as full of wit and 
humor and conceits and songs as an ant-hill is full 
of ants; but each one had his particular great qual- 
ity, his much esteemed merit which distinguished 
him from the others. 

First of all who sit about the bowl will I name 
Beerencreutz, the colonel with the great white mous- 
taches, player of cards, singer of songs; and next 
to him, his friend and brother in*arms, the silent 



major, the great bear-hunter, Anders Fuchs; and, 
as the third in order, little Ruster, the drummer, 
who had been for many years the colonel's servant, 
but had won the rank of pensioner through his skill 
in brewing punch and his knowledge of thorough- 
bass. ' Then may be mentioned the. old ensign, 
Rutger von Omeclou, lady-killer, dressed in stock 
and wig and ruffles, and painted like a woman, — 
he was one of the most important pensioners ; also 
Christian Bergh, the mighty captain, who was a 
stalwart hero, but as easy to outwit as a giant in the 
fairy story. In these two men's company one often 
saw the little, round Master Julius, witty, merry, 
and gifted, speaker, painter, songster, and story- 
teller. He often had his joke with the gout-crippled 
ensign and the dull giant. 

There was also the big German Kevenh.uller, 
inventor of the automatic carriage and the flying- 
machine, he whose name still echoes in the mur- 
muring forests, — a nobleman by birth and in 
appearance, with great curled moustaches, a pointed 
beard, aquiline nose, and narrow, squinting eyes in 
a net of intersecting wrinkles. There sat the great 
warrior cousin, Christopher, who never went outside 
the walls of the bachelors' wing unless there was to 
be a bear-hunt or some foolhardy adventure; and 
beside him Uncle Eberhard, the philosopher, who 
had not come to Ekeby for pleasure and play, but in 
order to be able, undisturbed by concern for daily 
bread, to complete his great work in the science of 

Last oi all, and the best, the gentle Lovenborg, 
who sought the good in the world, and understood 
little of its ways, aijdLiUiecrona, the great musician. 


who had a good home, and was always longing to 
be there, but still remained at Ekeby, for his soul 
needed riches and variety to be able to bear life. 

These eleven men had all left youth behind them, 
and several were in old age; but in the midst of 
them was one who was not more than thirty years 
old, and still possessed the full, undiminished 
strength of his mind and body. It was Gosta Berling, 
the Knight of Knights, who alone in himself was a 
better speaker, singer, musician, hunter, drinking 
companion and card-player than all of the others 
together. He possessed all gifts. What a man 
the major's wife had made of him ! 

Look at him now in the speaker's chair! The 
darkness sinks from the black roof in great festoons 
over him. His blond head shines through it like a 
young god's. Slender, beautiful, eager for adven- 
ture, he stands there. 

But he is speaking very seriously. 

"Gentlemen and brothers, the time passes, the 
feast is far advanced, it is time to drink a toast to 
the thirteenth at the table ! " 

" Little brother Gosta, " cries Master Julius, " there 
is no thirteenth; we are only twelve." 

"At Ekeby a man dies every year," continues 
Gosta with a more and more gloomy voice. " One 
of the guests of the bachelors' wing dies, one of the 
glad, the careless, the eternal youth dies. What of 
that } Gentlemen should never be old. Could our 
trembling hands not lift a glass, could our quenched 
eyes not distinguish the cards, what has life for us, 
and what are we for life } One must die of the thir- 
teen who celebrate Christmas eve in the smithy at 
Ekeby ; but every year a new one comes to complete 


our number; a man, experienced in pleasure, one 
who can handle violin and card, must come and make 
our company complete. Old butterflies should know 
how to die while the summer sun is shining. A 
toast to the thirteenth!" 

" But, Gosta, we are only twelve," remonstrate the 
pensioners, and do not touch their glasses. 

Gosta Berling, whom they called the poet, although 
he never wrote verses, continues with unaltered calm- 
ness : " Gentlemen and brothers ! Have you forgotten 
who you are } You are they who hold pleasure by 
force in Varmland. You are they who set the fiddle- 
bows going, keep up the dance, make song and music 
resound through the land. You know how to keep 
your hearts from the love of gold, your hands from 
work. If you did not exist the dance would die, 
summer die, the roses die, card-playing die, song 
die, and in this whole blessed land there would be 
nothing but iron and owners of iron-works. Pleasure 
lives while you live. For six years have I celebrated 
Christmas eve in the Ekeby smithy, and never before 
has any one refused to drink to the thirteenth. " 

"But, Gosta," cry they all, "when we are only 
twelve how can we drink to the thirteenth ? " 

"Are we only twelve.^ " he says. " Why must we 
die out from the earth.? Shall we be biit eleven 
next year, but ten the year after. Shall our name 
become a legend, our company destroyed.? I call 
upon him, the thirteenth, for I have stood up to 
drink his toast. From the ocean's depths, from the 
bowels of the earth, from heaven, from hell I call 
him who shall complete our number." 

Then it rattled in the chimney, then the furnace- 
door opened, then the thirteenth came. 


He was hairy, with tail and cloven-hoof, with 
horns and a pointed beard, and at the sight of him 
the pensioners start up with a cry. 

But in uncontrollable joy Gosta Berling cries, 
"The thirteenth has come — a toast to the thir- 
teenth ! " 

Yes, he has come, the old enemy of mankind, 
come to these foolhardy men who trouble the peace 
of the Holy Night. The friend of witches on their 
way to hell, who signs his bargains in blood on coal- 
black paper, he who danced with the countess at 
Ivarsnas for seven days, and could not be exorcized 
by seven priests, — he has come. 

In stormy haste thoughts fly through the heads of 
the old adventurers at the sight of him. They won- 
der for whose sake he is out this night. 

Many of them were ready to hurry away in terror, 
but they soon saw that the homed one had not come 
to carry them down to his dark kingdom, but that 
the ring of the cups and their songs had attracted 
him. He wished to enjoy a little human pleasure 
in this holy night, and cast aside his burden during 
this glad time. 

Oh, pensioners, pensioners, who of you now re- 
members it is the night before Christmas ; that even 
now angels are singing for the shepherds in the 
fields.^ Children are lying anxious lest they sleep 
too soundly, that they may not wake in time for the 
beautiful morning worship. Soon it will be time to 
light the Christmas candles in the church at Bro, 
and far away in the forest homes the young man in 
the evening has prepared a resin torch to light his 
girl to church. In all the houses the mistress has 
placed dip-lights in the windows, ready to light as 




the people go by to church. The sexton takes up 
the Christmas psalm in his sleep, and the old min- 
ister lies and tries if he has enough voice left to 
sing: "Glory be to God on high, on earth peace, 
good-will towards men ! " 

Oh, pensioners, better had it been for you if you 
had spent this peaceful night quietly in your beds 
than to trouble the company with the Prince of 

But they greet him with cries of welcome, as 
Gosta had done. A goblet filled with burning 
brandy is placed in his hand. They give him the 
place of honor at the table, and they look upon him 
with gladness, as if his ugly satyr face wore the 
delicate features of their youth's first love. 

Beerencreutz invites him to a game of cards. Mas- 
ter Julius sings his best songs for him, and Orneclou 
talks to him of lovely women, those beautiful creat- 
ures who make life sweet. 

He enjoys everything, the devil, as with princely 
bearing he leans back on the old coach-box, and 
with clawed hand lifts the brimming goblet to his 
smiling mouth. 

But Gosta Berling of course must make a speech 
in his honor. 

"Your Grace," he says, "we have long awaited 
you here at Ekeby, for you have little access, we 
suppose, to any other paradise. Here one can live 
without toiling or spinning, as your Grace perhaps 
knows. Here roasted ortolans fly into one's mouth, 
and the bitter ale and the sweet brandy flow in 
brooks and rivulets. This is a good place, your 
Grace ! We pensioners have waited for you, I tell 
you, for we have never been complete before. See, 


we are something finer than we seem ; we are the 
mighty twelve of the poet, who are of all time. We 
were twelve when we steered the world, up there on 
Olympus's cloud-veiled top, and twelve when we 
lived like birds in Ygdrasil's green crown. Wher- 
ever there has been poetry there have we followed. 
Did we not sit twelve men strong about King 
Arthur's Round Table, and were there not twelve 
paladins at Charlemagne's court? One of us has 
been a Thor, a Jupiter; any one can see that in us 
now. They can perceive the divine splendor under 
our rags, the lion's mane under the ass's head. 
Times are bad with us, but if we are there a smithy 
becomes Olympus and the bachelors' wing Valhalla. 

" But, your Grace, our number has not been com- 
plete. Every one knows that in the poet's twelve 
there must always be a Loki, a Prometheus. Him 
have we been without. 

" Your Grace, I wish you welcome ! " 

"Hear, hear, hear!" says the evil one; "such a 
fine speech, a fine speech indeed ! And I, who have 
no time to answer. Business, boys, business. I 
must be off, otherwise I should so gladly be at your 
service in any r61e you like. Thanks for a pleasant 
evening, old gossips. We shall meet again." 

Then the pensioners demand where he is going; 
and he answers that the noble major's wife, mistress 
of Ekeby, is waiting for him to get her contract 

Great wonder seizes upon the pensioners. 

A harsh and capable woman is she, the major's 
wife at Ekeby. She can lift a barrel of flour on her 
broad shoulders. She follows the loads of ore from 
the Bergslagen mines, on the long road to Ekeby. 


She sleeps like a waggoner on the stable floor, with 
a meal-bag under her head. In the winter she will 
watch by a charcoal kiln, tn the summer follow a 
timber-raft down to the LCfven. She is 3 powerful 
woman. She swears like a trooper, and rules over 
her seven estates like a king; rules her own parish 
and all the neighboring parishes; yes, the whole of 
lovely Varmland. But for the homeless gentlemen 
she had been like a mother, and therefore they had 
closed their ears when slander had whispered to 
them that she was in league with the devil. 

So they ask him with wonder what kind of a con- 
tract she has made with him. 

And he answers them, the black one, that he had 
given the major's wife her seven estates on the con- 
dition that she should send him every year a human 

Oh, the horror which compresses the pensioners' 

Of course they knew it, but they had not under- 
stood before. 

At Ekeby every year, a man dies, one of the guests 
in the bachelors' wing dies, one of the glad, the care- 
less, the ever young dies. What of that ? — gentle- 
men may not be old ! If their trembling fingers can- 
not lift the glass, if their dulled eyes cannot see the 
cards, what has life for them, and what are they to 
life ? Butterflies should know how to die while the 
sun is shining. 

But now, now for the first time, they grasp its real 

Woe to that woman ! That is why she had given 
them so many good meals, why she had let them 
drink her bitter ale and her sweet brandy, that they 


might reel from the drinking-halls and the card- 
tables at Ekeby down to the king of hell, — one a 
year, one for each passing year. 

Woe to the woman, the witch ! Strong men had 
come to this Ekeby, had come hither to* perish. 
For she had destroyed them here. Their brains 
were as sponges, dry ashes their lungs, and darkness 
their spirit, as they sank back on their death-beds 
and were ready for their long journey, hopeless, 
soulless, virtueless. 

Woe to the woman ! So had those died who had 
been better men than they, and so should they die. 

But not long are they paralyzed by weight of 

"You king of perdition!" they cry, "never again 
shall you make a blood-signed contract with that 
witch ; she shall die ! Christian Bergh, the mighty 
captain, has thrown over his shoulder the heaviest 
sledge-hammer in the smithy. He will bury it to 
the handle in the hag's head. No more souls shall 
she sacrifice to you. 

"And you, you horned thing, we shall lay you 
on the anvil and let the forge-hammer loose. We 
shall hold you quiet with tongs under the hammer's 
blows and teach you to go a-hunting for gentlemen's 
souls. " 

He is a coward, the devil, as every one knows of 
old, and all this talk of the forge-hammer does not 
please him at all. He calls Christian Bergh back 
and begins to bargain with the pensioners. 

"Take the seven estates; take them yourselves, 
gentlemen, and give me the major's wife ! " 

" Do you think we are as base as she } " cries 
Master Julius. " We will have Ekeby and all the 


rest, but you must look after the major's wife 
yourself. " 

" What does Gosta say ? what does Gosta say ? *' 
asks the gentle Lowenborg. " Gosta Barling must 
speak. We must hear what he thinks of this impor- 
tant matter. " 

"It is madness," says Gosta Berling. "Gentle- 
men, don't let him make fools of you! What are 
you all against the major's wife? It may fare as it 
will with our souls, but with my consent we will not 
be such ungrateful wretches as to act like rascals 
and traitors. I have eaten her food for too many 
years to deceive her now." 

" Yes, you can go to hell, Gosta, if you wish ! We 
would rather rule at Ekeby. " 

" But are you all raving, or have you drunk away 
your wits } Do you believe it is true .? Do you believe 
that that thing is the devil? Don't you see that 
it 's all a confounded lie? " 

" Tut, tut, tut, " says the black one ; " he does not 
see that he will soon be ready, and yet he has been 
seven years at Ekeby. He does not see how far 
advanced he is. " 

"Begone, man! I myself have helped to shove 
you into the oven there. " 

" As if that made any difference ; as if I were not 
as good a devil as another. Yes, yes, Gosta Berling, 
you are in for it. You have improved, indeed, under 
her treatment. " 

"It was she who saved me," says Gosta. "What 
had I been without her ? " 

"As if she did not know what she was about when 
she kept you here at Ekeby. You can lure others 
to the trap ; you have great gifts. Once you tried 


to get away from her ; you let her give you a cot- 
tage, and you became a laborer; you wished to earn 
your bread. Every day she passed your cottage, 
and she had lovely young girls with her. Once it 
was Marianne Sinclair ; then you threw aside your 
spade and apron, Gosta Berling, and came back as 
pensioner. " 

" It lay on the highway, you fool. " 

"Yes, yes, of course; it lay on the highway. 
Then you came to Borg, were tutor there to Henrik 
Dohna, and might have been Countess Marta's son- 
in-law. Who was it who managed that the young 
Ebba Dohna should hear that you were only a dis- 
missed priest, so that she refused you? It was the 
major's wife, Gosta Berling. She wanted you back 
again. " 

" Great matter ! " says Gosta. " Ebba Dohna died 
soon afterwards. I would never have got her any- 
way. " 

Then the devil came close up to him and hissed 
right in his face: "Died! yes, of course she died. 
Killed herself for your sake, did she.? But they 
never told you that." 

You are not such a bad devil," says Gosta. 
It was the major's wife who arranged it all, I 
tell you. She wanted to have you back in the 
bachelors' wing." 

Gosta burst out laughing. 

"You are not such a bad devil," he cried wildly. 
"Why should we not make a contract with you? 
I 'm sure you can get us the seven estates if you 

" It is well that you do not longer withstand your 



The pensioners drew a sigh of relief. It had gone 
so far with them that they could do nothing without 
Gosta. If he had not agreed to the arrangement it 
could never have come to anything. And it was no 
small matter for destitute gentlemen to get seven 
estates for their own. 

"Remember, now," says Gosta, "that we take the 
seven estates in order to save our souls, but not to 
be iron-work owners who count their money and 
weigh their iron. No dried-up parchments, no 
purse-proud money-bags will we become, but gentle- 
men will we be and remain." 

"The very words of wisdom," murmurs the black 

" If you, therefore, will give us the seven estates for 
one year we will accept them ; but remember that if 
we do anything during that time which is not worthy 
of a gentleman. If we do anything which is sensible, 
or useful, or effeminate, then you may take the 
whole twelve of us when the year is out, and give 
the estates to whom you will." 

The devil rubbed his hands with delight. 

"But if we always behave like true gentlemen," 
continues Gosta, "then you may never again make 
any contract about Ekeby, and no pay do you get for 
this year either from us or from the major's wif&" 

"That is hard," says the devil. "Oh, dear Gosta, 
I must have one soul, just one little, poor soul. 
Couldn't I have the major's wife? Why should you 
spare the major's wife? " 

"I do not drive any bargains with such wares," 
roars Gosta; "but if you must have someone, you 
can take old Sintram at Fors; he is ready, I can 
answer for that." 



"Well, well, that will do," says the devil, with- 
out blinking. " The pensioners or Sintram, they can 
balance one another. This will be a good year. " 

And so the contract was written, with blood from 
Gosta's little finger, on the devil's black paper and 
with his quill-pen. 

And when it was done the pensioners rejoiced. 
Now the world should belong to them for a whole 
year, and afterwards there would always be some 

They push aside the chairs, make a ring about 
the kettle, which stands in the middle of the black 
floor, and whirl in a wild dance. Innermost in the 
circle dances the devil, with wild bounds; and at 
last he falls flat beside the kettle, rolls it over, and 

Then Beerencreutz throws himself down beside 
him, and also Gosta Berling; and after them all the 
others lay themselves in a circle round the kettle, 
which is rolled from mouth to mouth. At last it 
is tipped over by a push, and the hot, sticky drink 
pours over them. 

When they rise up, swearing, the devil is gone; 
but his golden promises float like shining crowns 
over the pensioners* heads. 




On Christmas day the major's wife gives a great 
dinner at Ekeby. 

She sits as hostess at a table laid for fifty guests. 
She sits there in splendor and magnificence; here 
her short sheepskin jacket, her striped woollen skirt, 
and clay-pipe do not follow her. She rustles in 
silk, gold weighs on her bare arms, pearls cool her 
white neck. 

Where are the pensioners? Where are they who 
on the black floor of the smithy, out of the polished 
copper kettle, drank a toast to the new masters of 
Ekeby t 

In the comer by the stove the pensioners are sit- 
ting at a separate table; to-day there is no room for 
them at the big table. To them the food comes 
late, the wine sparingly ; to them are sent no glances 
from beautiful women, no one listens to Gosta's 

But the pensioners are like tamed birds, like sa- 
tiated wild beasts. They had had scarcely an hour's 
sleep that night; then they had driven to morning 
worship, lighted by torches and the stars. They 
saw the Christmas candles, they heard the Christ- 
mas hymns, their faces were like smiling children's. 
They forgot the night in the smithy as one forgets 
an evil dream. 


Great and powerful is the major's wife at Ekeby. 
Who dares lift his arm to strike her; who his voice 
to give evidence against her ? Certainly not poor 
gentlemen who for many years have eaten her bread 
and slept under her roof. She can put them where 
she will, she can shut her door to them when she 
will, and they have not the power to fly from her 
might. God be merciful to their souls ! Far from 
Ekeby they cannot live. 

At the big table there was rejoicing : there shone 
Marianne Sinclair's beautiful eyes; there rang the 
gay Countess Dohna's low laugh. 

But the pensioners are gloomy. Was it not just 
as easy to have put them at the same table with the 
other guests.^ What a lowering position there in 
the corner by the stove. As if pensioners were not 
fit to associate with fine people ! 

The major's wife is proud to sit between the Count 
at Borg and the Bro clergyman. The pensioners 
hang their heads like shame-faced children, and by 
degrees awake in them thoughts of the night. 

Like shy guests the gay sallies, the merry stories 
come to the table in the corner by the stove. There 
the rage of the night and its promises enter into 
their minds. Master Julius makes the mighty cap- 
tain, Christian Bergh, believe that the roasted 
grouse, which are being served at the big table, will 
not go round for all the guests; but it amuses no one. 

"They won't go round," he says. "I know how 
many there are. But they '11 manage in spite of it, 
Captain Christian ; they have some roasted crows for 
us here at the little table." 

But Colonel Beerencreutz's lips are curved by 
only a very feeble smile, under the fierce mous- 


taches, and Gdsta has looked the whole day as if he 
was itieditating somebody's death. 

"Any food is good enough for pensioners," he says. 
' At last the dish heaped up with magnificent grouse 
reaches the little table. 

But Captain Christian is angry. Has he not had 
a life-long hate of crows, — those odious, cawing, 
winged things .' 

He hated them so bitterly that last autumn he had 
put on a woman's trailing dress, and had fastened a 
cloth on his head and made himself a laughing-stock 
for all men, only to get in range when they ate the 
grain in the fields. 

He sought them out at their caucuses on the bare 
fields in the spring and killed them. He looked for 
their nests in the summer, and threw out the scream- 
ing, featherless young ones, or smashed the half- 
hatched eggs. 

Now he seizes the dish of grouse 

"Do you think I don't know them?" he cries to 
the servant. " Do I need to hear them caw to recog- 
nize them ? Shame on you, to offer Christian Bergh 
crows ! Shame on you ! " 

Thereupon he takes the grouse, one by one, and 
throws them against the wall. 

" Shame, shame 1 " he reiterates, so that the whole 
room rings, — " to offer Christian Bergh crows ! 
Shame 1 " 

And just as he used to hurl the helpless young 
crows against the cliffs, so now he sends grouse after 
grouse whizzing against the wall. 

Sauce and grease spatter about him, the crushed 
birds rebound to the floor. 

And the bachelors' wing rejoices. 


Then the angry voice of the major's wife pene- 
trates to the pensioners' ears. 

" Turn him out ! " she calls to the servants. 

But they do not dare to touch him. He is still 
Christian Bergh, the mighty captain. 

" Turn him out ! " 

He hears the command^ and, terrible in his rage^ 
he now turns upon the major's wife as a bear turns 
from a fallen enemy to meet a new attack. He 
marches up to the horse-shoe table. His heavy 
tread resounds through the hall. He stands oppo- 
site her, with the table between them. 

"Turn him out! " cries the major's wife again. 

But he is raging ; none dare to face his frowning 
brow and great clenched hand. He is big as a giant, 
and as strong. The guests and servants tremble, 
and dare not approach him. Who would dare to 
touch him now, when rage has taken away his 
reason ? 

He stands opposite the major's wife and threatens 

" I took the crow and threw it against the wall. 
And I did right." 

" Out with you, captain ! " 

"Shame, woman! Offer Christian Bergh crows! 
If I did right I would take you and your seven 
hell's — " 

" Thousand devils, Christian Bergh! don't swear. 
Nobody but I swears here. " 

"Do you think I am afraid of you, hag.^ Don't 
you think I know how you got your seven estates ? " 

"Silence, captain!" 

" When Altringer died he gave them to your hus- 
band because you had been his mistress. " 


"Will you be silent?" 

" Because you had been such a faithful wife, Mar- 
gareta Samzelius. And the major took the seven 
estates and let you manage them and pretended 
not to know. And the devil arranged it all; but 
now comes the end for you. " 

The major's wife sits down; she is pale and trem- 
bling. She assents in a strange, low voice. 

"Yes, now it is the end for me, and it is your 
doing, Christian Bergh." 

At her voice Captain Christian trembles, his face 
works, and his eyes are filled with tears of anguish. 

"lam drunk," he cries. "I don't know what I 
am saying; I haven't said anything. Dog and 
slave, dog and slave, and nothing more have I been 
for her for forty years. She is Margareta Celsing, 
whom I have served my whole life. I say nothing 
against her. What should I have to say against the 
beautiful Margareta Celsing ! I am the dog which 
guards her door, the slave who bears her burdens. 
She may strike me, she may kick me! You see 
how I hold my tongue and bear it. I have loved her 
for forty years. How could I say anything against 

And a wonderful sight it is to see how he kneels 
and begs for forgiveness. And as she is sitting on 
the other side of the table, he goes on his knees 
roimd the table till he comes to her; then he bends 
down and kisses the hem of her dress, and the floor 
is wet with his tears. 

But not far from the major's wife sits a small, 
strong man. He has shaggy hair, small, squinting 
eyes, and a protruding under-jaw. He looks like a 
bear. He is a raan of few words, who likes to go 


his own quiet way and let the world take care 
itself. He is Major Samzelius. 

He rises when he hears Captain Christian's accus — 
ing words, and the major's wife rises, and all the^ 
fifty guests. The women are weeping in terror ol 
what is coming, the men stand dejected, and at th< 
feet of the major's wife lies Captain Christian, kiss — 
ing the hem of her dress, wetting the floor with his - 

The major slowly clenches his broad, hairy hands, 
and lifts his arm. 

But the woman speaks first. Her voice sounds 
hollow and unfamiliar. 

"You stole me," she cried. "You came like a 
thief and took me. They forced me, in my home, by 
blows, by hunger, and hard words to be your wife. 
I have treated you as you deserved." 

The major's broad fist is clenched. His wife 
gives way a couple of steps. Then she speaks 

"Living eels twist under the knife; an unwilling 
wife takes a lover. Will you strike me now for 
what happened twenty years ago.? Do you not re- 
member how he lived at Ekeby, we at Sjo.? Do you 
not remember how he helped us in our poverty.? 
We drove in his carriages, we drank his wine. Did 
we hide anything from you.? Were not his servants 
your servants.? Did not his gold weigh heavy in 
your pocket.? Did you not accept the seven estates? 
You held your tongue and took them; then you 
should have struck, Berndt Samzelius, — then you 
should have struck." 

The man turns from her and looks on all those 
present. He reads in their faces that they think 


she is right, that they all believe he took the estates 
in return for his silence. 

"I never knew it!" he says, and stamps on the 

" It is well that you know it now ! " she cries, in a 
shrill, ringing voice. "Was I not afraid lest you 
should die without knowing it ? It is well that you 
know it now, so that I can speak out to you who 
have been my master and jailer. You know now 
that I, in spite of all, was his from whom you stole 
me. I tell you all now, you who have slandered 
me ! " 

It is the old love which exults in her voice and 
shines from her eyes. Her husband stands before 
her with lifted hand. She reads horror and scorn 
on the fifty faces about her. She feels that it is the 
last hour of her power. But she cannot help rejoic- 
ing that she may speak openly of the tenderest 
memory of her life. 

" He was a man, a man indeed. Who were you, 
to come between us ? I have never seen his equal. 
He gave me happiness, he gave me riches. Blessed 
be his memory ! '* 

Then the major lets his lifted arm fall without 
striking her; now he knows how he shall punish her. 
" Away ! " he cries ; " out of my house ! " 
She stands motionless. 

But the pensioners stand with pale faces and stare 
at one another. Everything was going as the devil 
had prophesied. They now saw the consequences 
of the non-renewal of the contract. If that is true, 
so is it also true that she for more than twenty years 
had sent pensioners to perdition, and that they too 
were destined for the journey. Oh, the witch t 


" Out with you ! " continues the major. " Beg 
your bread on the highway! You shall have no 
pleasure of his money, you shall not live on his 
lands. There is no more a mistress of Ekeby. 
The day you set your foot in my house I will kill 
you. " 

" Do you drive me from my home ? " 

" You have no home. Ekeby is mine." 

A feeling of despair comes over the major's wife. 
She retreats to the door, he following close after 

" You who have been my life's curse," she laments^ 
" shall you also now have power to do this to me ? " 

" Out, out ! " 

She leans against the door-post, clasps her hands, 
and holds them before her face. She thinks of her 
mother and murmurs to herself : — 

" ' May you be disowned, as I have been disowned; 
may the highway be your home, the hay*stack your 
bed ! ' It is all coming true. " 

The good old clergyman from Bro and the judge 
from Munkerud came forward now to Major Samzelius 
and tried to calm him. They said to him that it 
would be best to let all those old stories rest, to let 
everything be as it was, to forget and forgive. 

He shakes the mild old hands from his shoul- 
der. He is terrible to approach, just as Christian 
Bergh had been. 

" It is no old story, " he cries. " I never knew 
anything till to-day. I have never been able before 
to punish the adulteress." 

At that word the major's wife lifts her head and 
regains her old courage. 

"You shall go out before I do. Do you think 


that I shall give in to you?" she says. And she 
comes forward from the door. 

The major does not answer, but he watches her 
every movement, ready to strike if he finds no better 
way to revenge himself. 

"Help me, good gentlemen," she cries, "to get 
this man bound and carried out, until he gets back 
the use of his senses. Remember who I am and 
who he is! Think of it, before I must give in to 
him ] I arrange all the work at Ekeby, and he sits 
the whole day long and feeds his bears. Help me, 
good friends and neighbors I There will be a bound- 
less misery if I am no longer here. The peasant 
gets his living by cutting my wood and carting my 
iron. The charcoal burner lives by getting me 
charcoal, the lumber man by bringing down my 
timber. It is I who give out the work which brings 
prosperity. Smiths, mechanics, and carpenters live 
by serving me. Do you think that man can keep 
my work going? I tell you that if you drive me 
away you let famine in." 

Again are many hands lifted to help the major's 
wife; again mild, persuading hands are laid on the 
major's shoulders. 

"No," he says, "away with you. Who will de- 
fend an adulteress? I tell you that if she does not 
go of her own will I shall take her in my anns and 
carry her down to my bears. " 

At these words the raised hands are lowered. 

Then, as a last resource, she turns to the pen- 

"Will you also allow me to be driven from my 
home? Have I let you freeze out in the snow in 
winter? Have | denied you bitter ale and sweet 


brandy ? Did I take any pay or any work from you 
because I gave you food and clothes ? Have you not 
played at my feet, safe as children at their mother's 
side? Has not the dance gone through my halls? 
Have not merriment and laughter been your daily 
bread? Do not let this man, who has been my life's 
misfortune, drive me from my home, gentlemen! 
Do not let me become a beggar on the highway ! " 

At these words Gosta Berling had stolen away to 
a beautiful dark-haired girl who sat at the big 

"You were much at Borg five years ago, Anna," 
he says. " Do you know if it was the major's wife 
who told Ebba Dohna that I was a dismissed 
priest ? " 

" Help her, Gosta! " is the girl's only answer. 

" You must know that I will first hear if she has 
made me a murderer." 

" Oh, Gosta, what a thought ! Help her, Gosta! " 

"You won't answer, I see. Then Sintram told 
the truth." And Gosta goes back to the other pen- 
sioners. He does not lift a finger to help the 
major's wife. 

Oh, if only she had not put the pensioners at a 
separate table off there in the corner by the stove ! 
Now the thoughts of the night awake in their minds, 
and a rage burns in their faces which is not less than 
the major's own. 

In pitiless hardness they stand, unmoved by her 

Did not everything they saw confirm the events 
of the night ? 

"One can see that she did not get her contract 
renewed," murmurs one. 


" Go to hell, hag ! " screams another. " By rights 
we ought to hunt you from the door." 

"Fools," cries the gentle old Uncle Eberhard 
to the pensioners. "Don't you understand it was 
Sintram ? " 

" Of course we understand ; of course we know 
it," answers Julius; "but what of that? May it not 
be true, at any rate.' Does not Sintram go on 
the devil's errands? Don't they understand one 
another ? " 

"Go yourself, Eberhard; go and help hert" they 
mock. " Vou don't believe in hell. You can 

And GostaBerling stands, without a word, motion- 

No, from the threatening, murmuring, struggling 
bachelors' wing she will get no help. 

Then once again she retreats to the door and raises 
her clasped hands to her eyes. 

"'May you be disowned, as I have been disowned, ' " 
she cries to herself in her bitter sorrow. " ' May the 
highway be your home, the hay-stack your bed ! ' " 

Then she lays one hand on the door latch, but the 
other she stretches on high. 

"Know you all, who now let me fall, know that 
your hour is soon coming ! You shall be scattered, 
and your place shall stand empty. How can you 
stand when I do not hold you up? You, Melchior 
Sinclair, who have a heavy hand and let your wife 
feel it, beware! You, minister at Broby, your pun- 
ishment is coming! Madame Uggla, look after your 
house; poverty is coming! You young, beautiful 
women — Elizabeth Dohna, Marianne Sinclair, Anna 
Stj^mhok — 'do not think that I am the only one who 


must flee from her home. And beware, pensioners, 
a storm is coming over the land. You will be swept 
away from the earth ; your day is over, it is verily 
over ! I do not lament for myself, but for you ; for 
the storm shall pass over your heads, and who shall 
stand when I have fallen ? And my heart bleeds for 
my poor people. Who will give them work when I 
am gone ? " 

She opens the door; but then Captain Christian 
lifts his head and says: — 

" How long must I lie here at your feet, Margareta 
Celsing? Will you not forgive me, so that I may 
stand up and fight for you ? " 

Then the major's wife fights a hard battle with 
herself; but she sees that if she forgives him he 
will rise up and attack her husband ; and this man, 
who has loved her faithfully for forty years will 
become a murderer. 

" Must I forgive, too ? " she says. " Are you not 
the cause of all my misfortune, Christian Bergh? 
Go to the pensioners and rejoice over your work." 

So she went. She went calmly, leaving terror 
and dismay behind her. She fell, but she was not 
without greatness in her fall. 

She did not lower herself to grieving weakly, but 
in her old age she still exulted over the love of her 
youth. She did not lower herself to lamenting and 
pitiable weeping when she left everything; she did 
not shrink from wandering about the land with beg- 
gar's bag and crutch. She pitied only the poor 
peasants and the happy, careless people on the shores 
of the Lofven, the penniless pensioners, — all those 
whom she had taken in and cared for. 

She was abandoned by all, and yet she had strength 


to turn away her last friend that he should not be a 

She was a woman great in strength and love of 
action. We shall not soon see her like again. 

The next day Major Samzelius moved from Ekeby 
to his own farm of Sjo, which lies next to the large 

In Altringer's will, by which the major had got 
the estates, it was clearly stated that none of them 
should be sold or given away, but that after the 
death of the major his wife and her heirs should 
inherit them all. So, as he could not dissipate the 
hated inheritance, he placed the pensioners to reign 
over it, thinking that he, by so doing, most injured 
Ekeby and the other six estates. 

As no one in all the country round now doubted 
that the wicked Sintramwent on the devil's errands, 
and as everjrthing he had promised had been so bril- 
liantly fulfilled the pensioners were quite sure that 
the contract would be carried out in every point, and 
they were entirely decided not to do, during the 
year, an)rthing sensible, or useful, or effeminate, 
convinced that the major's wife was an abominable 
witch who sought their ruin. 

The old philosopher, Eberhard, ridiculed their 
belief. But who paid any attention to such a man, 
who was so obstinate in his unbelief that if he had 
lain in the midst of the fires of hell and had seen 
all the devils standing and grinning at him, w6uld 
still have insisted that they did not exist, because 
they could not exist? — for Uncle Eberhard was a 
great philosopher. 

Gosta Berling told no one what he thought. It is 
certain that he considered he owed the major's wife 


little thanks because she had made him a pensioner 
at Ekeby; it seemed better to him to be dead than 
to have on his conscience the guilt of Ebba Dohna's 

He did not lift his hand to be revenged on the 
major's wife, but neither did he to help her. He 
could not. But the pensioners had attained great 
power and magnificence. Christmas was at hand, 
with its feasts and pleasures. The hearts of the 
pensioners were filled with rejoicing; and whatever 
sorrow weighed on Gosta Berling's heart he did not 
show in face or speech. 




It was Christmas, and there was to be a ball at 

At that time, and it is soon sixty years ago, a 
young Count Dohna lived at Borg; he was newly 
married, and he had a young, beautiful countess. It 
was sure to be gay at the old castle. 

An invitation had come to Ekeby, but it so hap- 
pened that of them all who were there that year, 
Gosta Berling, whom they called "the poet," was 
the only one who wished to go. 

Borg and Ekeby both lie by the Lofven, but on 
opposite shores. Borg is in Svartsjo parish, Ekeby 
in Bro. When the lake is impassable it is a ten or 
twelve miles' journey from Ekeby to Borg. 

The pauper, Gosta Berling, was fitted out for the 
festival by the old men, as if he had been a king's 
son, and had the honor of a kingdom to keep up. 

His coat with the glittering buttons was new, his 
ruffles were stiff, and his buckled shoes shining. 
He wore a cloak of the finest beaver, and a cap of 
sable on his yellow, curling hair. They spread a 
bear-skin with silver claws over his sledge, and gave 
him black Don Juan, the pride of the stable, to 


He whistled to his white Tancred^ and seized the 
braided reins. He started rejoicing, surrounded by 
the glitter of riches and splendor, he who shone so 
by his own beauty and by the playful brilliancy of 
his genius. 

He left early in the forenoon. It was Sunday, 
and he heard the organ in the church at Bro as he 
drove by. He followed the lonely forest road which 
led to Berga, where Captain Uggla then lived 
There he meant to stop for dinner. 

Berga was no rich man's home. Hunger knew 
the way to that turf-roofed 'house; but he was met 
with jests, charmed with song and games like other 
guests, and went as unwillingly as they. 

The old Mamselle Ulrika Dillner, who looked 
after everything at Berga, stood on the steps and 
wished Gosta Berling welcome. She courtesied to 
him, and the false curls, which hung down over her 
brown face with its thousand wrinkles, danced with 
joy. She led him into the dining-room, and then 
she began to tell him about the family, and their 
changing fortunes. 

Distress stood at the door, she said ; it was hard 
times at Berga. They would not even have had any 
horse-radish for dinner, with their corned beef, if 
Ferdinand and the girls had not put Disa before a 
sledge and driven down to Munkerud to borrow some. 

The captain was off in the woods again, and would 
of course come home with a tough old hare, on 
which one had to use more butter in cooking it than 
it was worth itself. That 's what he called getting 
food for the house. Still, it would do, if only he 
did not come with a miserable fox, the worst beast 
our Lord ever made ; no use, whether dead or alive. 


And the captain's wife, yes, she was not up yet. 
She ]ay abed and read novels, just as she had 
always done. She was not made for work, that 
God's angel. 

No, that could be done by some one who was old 
and gray like Ulrika Dillner, working night and day 
to keep the whole miserable affair together. And 
it was n't always so easy ; for it was the truth that 
for one whole winter they had not had in that house 
any other meat than bear-hams. And big wages 
she did not expect; so far she had never seen any; 
but they would not turn her out on the roadside 
either, when she could n't work any longer in return 
for her food. They treated a house-maid like a 
human being in that house, and they would one of 
these days give old Ulrika a good burial if they had 
anything to buy the cofBn with. 

" For who knows how it will be ? " she bursts out, 
and wipes her eyes, which are always so quick to 
tears. "We have debts to the wicked Sintram, and 
he can take everything from us. Of course Ferdinand 
is engaged to the rich Anna Stjarnhok; but she is 
tired, — she is tired of him. And what will become 
of us, of our three cows, and our nine horses, of our 
gay young ladies who want to go from one ball to 
another, of our dry fields where nothing grows, of 
our mild Ferdinand, who will never be a real man,' 
What will become of the whole blessed house, where 
everything thrives except work ? " 

But dinner-time came, and the family gathered. 
The good Ferdinand, the gentle son of the house, 
and the lively daughters came home with the bor- 
rowed horse-radish. The captain came, fortified by 
a bath in a hole in the ice and a tramp through the 


woods. He threw up the window to get more air, 
and shook Gosta's hand with a strong grip. And his 
wife came, dressed in silk, with wide laces hanging 
over her white hands, which Gosta was allowed to kiss. 

They all greeted Gosta with joy ; jests flew about 
the circle ; gayly they asked him : — 

''How are you all at Ekeby; how is it in that 
promised land ? " 

" Milk and honey flow there," he answered. " We 
empty the mountains of iron and flU our cellar with 
wine. The fields bear gold, with which we gild life's 
misery, and we cut down our woods to build bowling- 
alleys and summer houses." 

The captain's wife sighed and smiled at his answer, 
and her lips murmured the word, — 

" Poet ! " 

"Many sins have I on my conscience," answered 
Gosta, " but I have never written a line of poetry." 

" You are nevertheless a poet, Gosta ; that name 
you must put up with. You have lived through 
more poems than all our poets have written." 

Then she spoke, tenderly as a mother, of his wasted 
life. ** I shall live to see you become a man," she 
said. And he felt it sweet to be urged on by this 
gentle woman, who was such a faithful friend, and 
whose romantic heart burned with the love of gpreat 

But just as they had finished the gay meal and 
had enjoyed the corned beef and horse-radish 
and cabbage and apple fritters and Christmas ale, 
and Gosta had made them laugh and cry by telling 
them of the major and his wife and the Broby clergy- 
man, they heard sleigh-bells outside, and immedi- 
ately afterward the wicked Sintram walked in. 


He beamed with satisfaction, from the top of his 
bald head down to his long, flat feet. He swung his 
long arms, and his face was twisted. It was easy to 
sec that he brought bad news. 

'* Have you heard," he asked, — " have you heard 
that the banns have been called to-day for Anna 
Stjarnhok and the rich Dahlberg in the Svartsjo 
church? She must have forgotten that she was 
engaged-TO Ferdinand." 

They had not heard a word of it They were 
amazed and grieved. 

Already they fancied the home pillaged to pay the 
debt to this wicked man ; the beloved horses sold, as 
well as the worn furniture which had come from the 
home of the captain's wife. They saw an end to 
the gay life with feasts and joumeyings from ball to 
ball. Bear-hams would again adorn the board, and 
the young people must go out into the world and 
work for strangers. 

The captain's wife caressed her son, and let him 
feel the comfort of a never-failing love. 

But — there sat Gosta Berling in the midst of 
them, and, unconquerable, turned over a thousand 
plans in his head. 

" Listen," he cried, " it is not yet time to think 
of grieving. It is the minister's wife at Svartsjo 
who has arranged ail this. She has got a hold 
on Anna, since she has been living with her at 
the vicarage. It is she who has persuaded her 
to forsake Ferdinand and take old Dahlberg; but 
they 're not married yet, and will never be either. 
I am on my way to Borg, and shall meet Anna 
diere. I shall talk to her; I shall get her away 
from the clergyman's, from her flanc^, — I shall 


bring her with me here to-night. And afterwards 
old Dahlberg shall never get any good of her." 

And so it was arranged. Gosta started for Borg 
alone, without taking any of the gay young ladies, 
but with warm good wishes for his return. And 
Sintram, who rejoiced that old Dahlberg should be 
cheated, decided to stop at Berga to see Gosta come 
back with the faithless girl. In a burst of good-will 
he even wrapt round him his green plaid, a present 
from Mamselle Ulrika. 

The captain's wife came out on the steps with 
three little books, bound in red leather, in her 

" Take them," she said to Gosta, who already sat 
in the sledge ; " take them, if you fail ! It is * Corinne,' 
Madame de StaeFs * Corinne.* I do not want them 
to go by auction." 

" I shall not fail." 

" Ah, Gosta, Gosta," she said, and passed her hand 
over his bared head, " strongest and weakest of men ! 
How long will you remember that a few poor people's 
happiness lies in your hand ? " 

Once more Gosta flew along the road, drawn by 
the black Don Juan, followed by the white Tancred, 
and the joy of adventure filled his soul. He felt like 
a young conqueror, the spirit was in him. 

His way took him past the vicarage at Svartsjo. 
He turned in there and asked if he might drive Anna 
Stjarnhok to the ball. And that he was permitted. 

A beautiful, self-willed girl it was who sat in his 
sledge. Who would not want to drive behind the 
black Don Juan? 

The young people were silent at first, but then she 
began the conversation, audaciousness itself. 


" Have you heard what the minister read out in 
church to-day?" 

" Did he say that you were the prettiest girl be- 
tween the Lofven and the Klar River? " 

" How stupid you are ! but every one knows that. 
He called the banns for me and old Dahlberg." 

" Never would I have let you sit in my sledge nor 
sat here myself, if I had known that. Never would I 
have wished to drive you at all." 

And the proud heiress answered : — 

" I could have got there well enough without you, 
Gosta Berling." 

" It is a pity for you, Anna," said Gosta, thought- 
fully, " that your father and mother are not alive. 
You are your own mistress, and no one can hold you 
to account." 

" It is a much greater pity that you had not said 
that before, so that I might have driven with some 
one else." 

" The minister's wife thinks as I do, that you need 
some one to take your father's place ; else she had 
never put you to pull in harness with such an old 

" It is not she who has decided it." 

" Ah, Heaven preserve us ! — have you yourself 
chosen such a fine man?" 

" He does not take me for my money." 

" No, the old ones, they only run after blue eyes 
and red cheeks ; and awfully nice they are, when they 
do that" 

" Oh, Gosta, are you not ashamed? " 

" But remember that you are not to play with 
young men any longer. No more dancing and 
games. Your place is in the corner of the sofa — 


or perhaps you mean to play cribbage. with old 

They were silent, till they drove up the steep hill 
to Borg. 

"Thanks for the drive! It will be long before I 
drive again with you, Gosta Berling." 

" Thanks for the promise ! I know many who will 
be sorry to-day they ever drove you to a party." 

Little pleased was the haughty beauty when she 
entered the ball-room and looked over the guests 
gathered there. 

First of all she saw the little, bald Dahlberg beside 
the tall, slender, golden-haired Gosta Berling. She 
wished she could have driven them both out of the 

Her fianc^ came to ask her to dance, but she re- 
ceived him with crushing astonishment 

" Are you going to dance? You never do ! " 

And the girls came to wish her joy. 

" Don't give yourselves the trouble, girls. You 
don't suppose that any one could be in love with old 
Dahlberg. But he is rich, and I am rich, therefore 
we go well together." 

The old ladies went up to her, pressed her white 
hand, and spoke of life's greatest happiness. 

"Congratulate the minister's wife," she said. " She 
is gladder about it than I." 

But there stood Gosta Berling, the gay cavalier, 
greeted with joy for his cheerful smile and his pleas- 
ant words, which sifted gold-dust over life's gray web. 
Never before had she seen him as he was that night. 
He was no outcast, no homeless jester; no, a king 
among men, a born king. 

He and the other young men conspired against 


her. She should think over how badly she had be- 
haved when she gave herself with her lovely face and 
her great fortune to an old man. And they let her 
sit out ten dances. 

She was boiling with rage. 

At the eleventh dance came a man, the most in- 
Mgnificant of all, a poor thing, whom nobody would 
dance with, and asked her for a turn. 

" There is no more bread, bring on the crusts," she 

They played a game of forfeits. The fair-haired 
girls put their heads together and condemned her to 
kiss the one she loved best. And with smiling lips 
they waited to see the proud beauty kiss old 

But she rose, stately in her anger, and said : — 

" May I not just as well give a blow to the one I 
like the least! " 

The moment after Gosta's cheek burned under her 
firm hand. He flushed a flaming red, but he con- 
quered himself, seized her hand, held it fast a second, 
and whispered : — 

" Meet me in half an hour in the red drawing- 
room on the lower floor ! " 

His blue eyes flashed on her, and encompassed her 
with magical waves. She felt that she must obey. 

She met him with proud and angry words. 

" How does it concern you whom I marry? " 

He was not ready to speak gently to her, nor did it 
seem to him best to speak yet of Ferdinand. 

" I thought it was not too severe a punishment for 
you to sit out ten dances. But you want to be 
allowed unpunished to break vows and promises. If 


a better man than I had taken your sentence in his 
hand, he could have made it harder." 

** What have I done to you and all the others, that 
I may not be in peace? It is for my money's sake 
you persecute me. I shall throw it into the Lofven, 
and any one who wants it can fish it up." 

She put her hands before her eyes and wept from 

That moved the poet's heart. He was ashamed of 
his harshness. He spoke in caressing tones. 

"Ah, child, child, forgive me! Forgive poor 
Grosta Berling! Nobody cares what such a poor 
wretch says or does, you know that. Nobody weeps 
for his anger, one might just as well weep over a 
mosquito's bite. It was madness in me to hope that 
I could prevent our loveliest and richest girl marry- 
ing that old man. And now I have only distressed 

He sat down on the sofa beside her. Gently he 
put his arm about her waist, with caressing tender- 
ness, to support and raise her. 

She did not move away. She pressed closer to 
him, threw her arms round his neck, and wept with 
her beautiful head on his shoulder. 

O poet, strongest and weakest of men, it was not 
about your neck those white arms should rest. 

" If I had known that," she whispered, ** never 
would I have taken the old man. I have watched 
you this evening ; there is no one like you." 

From between pale lips Gosta forced out, — 

" Ferdinand." 

She silenced him with a kiss. 

" He is nothing; no one but you is anything. To 
you will I be faithful." 


" I am Gosta Berling," he said gloomily ; " you can- 
not marry me," 

" You are the man I love, the noblest of men. You 
need do nothing, be nothing. You are born a 

Then the poefs blood seethed. She was beautiful 
and tender in her love. He took her in his arms. 

" If you will be mine, you cannot remain at the 
vicarage. Let me drive you to Ekeby to-night; 
there I shall know how to defend you tiU we can be 

That was a wild drive through the night Ab- 
sorbed in their love, they let Don Juan take his own 
pace. The noise of the runners was like the lamenta- 
tions of those they had deceived. What did they 
care for that? She hung on his neck, and he leaned 
forward and whispered in her ear. 

" Can any happiness be compared in sweetness to 
stolen pleasures?" 

What did the banns matter? They had love. And 
the anger of men ! Gosta Berling believed in fate ; 
fate had mastered them : no one can resist fate. 

If the stars had been the candles which had been 
lighted for her wedding, if Don Juan's bells had been 
the church chimes, calling the people to witness her 
marriage to old Dahlberg, still she must have fled 
with Gosta Berling. So powerful is fate. 

They had passed the vicarage and Munkerud. 
They had three miles to Berga and three miles more 
to Ekeby. The road skirted the edge of the wood ; 
on their right lay dark hills, on their left a long, 
white valley. 

Tancred came rushing. He ran so fast that he 


seemed to lie along the ground. Howling with 
fright, he sprang up in the sledge and crept under 
Anna's feet. 

Don Juan shied and bolted. 

" Wolves ! " said Gosta Berling. 

They saw a long, gray line running by the fence. 
There were at least a dozen of them. 

Anna was not afraid. The day had been richly 
blessed with adventure, and the night promised to be 
equally so. It was life, — to speed over the sparkling 
snow, defying wild beasts and men. 

Gosta uttered an oath, leaned forward, and struck 
Don Juan a heavy blow with the whip. 

"Are you afraid?" he asked. "They mean to 
cut us off there, where the road turns." 

Don Juan ran, racing with the wild beasts of the 
forest, and Tancred howled in rage and terror. They 
reached the turn of the road at the same time as the 
wolves, and Gosta drove back the foremost with the 

" Ah, Don Juan, my boy, how easily you could get 
away from twelve wolves, if you did not have us to 

They tied the green plaid behind them. The 
wolves were afraid of it, and fell back for a while. 
But when they had overcome their fright, one of 
them ran, panting, with hanging tongue and open 
mouth up to the sledge. Then Gosta took Madame 
de Stael's " Corinne " and threw it into his mouth. 

Once more they had breathing-space for a time, 
while the brutes tore their booty to pieces, and then 
again they felt the dragging as the wolves seized the 
green plaid, and heard their panting breath. They 
knew that they should not pass any human dwelling 


before Berga, but worse than death it seemed to 
Gosta to see those he had deceived. But he knew 
that the horse would tire, and what should become of 
them then? 

They saw the house at Berga at the edge of the 
forest. Candles burned in the windows. Gosta knew 
too well for whose sake. 

But now the wolves drew back, fearing the neigh- 
borhood of man, and Gosta drove past Berga. He 
came no further than to the place where the road 
once again buried itself in the wood ; there he saw a 
dark group before him, — the wolves were waiting for 

" Let us turn back to the vicarage and say that we 
took a little pleasure trip in the starlight. We can't 
go on." 

They turned, but in the next moment the sledge 
was surrounded by wolves. Gray forms brushed by 
them, their white teeth glittered in gaping mouths, 
and their glowing eyes shone. They howled with 
hunger and thirst for blood. The glittering teeth 
were ready to seize the soft human flesh. The wolves 
leaped up on Don Juan, and hung on the saddle- 
cloth. Anna sat and wondered if they would eat 
them entirely up, or if there would be something left, 
so that people the next morning would find their 
mangled limbs on the trampled, bloody snow. 

"It's a question of our lives," she said, and leaned 
down and seized Tancred by the nape of the neck. 

"Don't, — that will not help! It is not for the 
dog's sake the wolves are out to-night." 

Thereupon Gosta drove into the yard at Berga, but 
the wolves hunted him up to the very steps. He 
had to beat them off with the whip. 


" Anna," he said, as they drew up, " God would not 
have it. Keep a good countenance ; if you are the 
woman I take you for, keep a good countenance ! " 

They had heard the sleigh-bells in the house, and 
came out 

** He has her ! " they cried, " he has her ! Long 
live Gosta Berling ! " and the new-comers were em- 
braced by one after another. 

Few questions were asked. The night was far 
advanced, the travellers were agitated by their terrible 
drive. and needed rest. It was enough that Anna 
had come. 

All was well. Only "Corinne" and the green 
plaid, Mamselle Ulrika's prized gift, were destroyed. 

The whole house slept. But Gosta rose, dressed 
himself, and stole out. Unnoticed he led Don Juan 
out of the stable, harnessed him to the sledge, and 
meant to set out. But Anna Stjarnhok came out 
from the house. 

" I heard you go out," she said. " So I got up, 
too. I am ready to go with you." 

He went up to her and took her hand. 

" Don't you understand it yet? It cannot be. God 
does not wish it. Listen now and try to understand. 
I was here to dinner and saw their grief over your 
faithlessness. I went to Borg to bring you back to 
Ferdinand. But I have always been a good-for- 
nothing, and will never be anything else. I betrayed 
him, and kept you for myself. There is an old 
woman here who believes that I shall become a man. 
I betrayed her. And another poor old thing will 
freeze and starve here for the sake of dying among 
friends, but I was ready to let the wicked Sintram 


take her home. You were beautiful, and sin is sweet. 
It is so easy to tempt Gosta Berling. Oh, what a 
miserable wretch I am ! I know how they love their 
home, all those in there, but I was ready just now to 
leave it to be pillaged. I forgot everything for your 
sake, you were so sweet in your love. But now, 
Anna, now since I have seen their joy, I will not keep 
you ; no, I will not. You could have made a man of 
me, but I may not keep you. Oh, my beloved ! He 
there above mocks at our desires. We must bow 
under His chastising hand. Tell me that you. from 
this day will take up your burden ! All of them rely 
upon you. Say that you will stay with them and be 
their prop and help! If you love me, if you will 
lighten my deep sorrow, promise me this ! My be- 
loved, is your heart so great that you can conquer 
yourself, and smile in doing it? " 

She accepted the renunciation in a sort of ecstasy. 

" I shall do as you wish, — sacrifice myself and 

** And not hate my poor friends? " 

She smiled sadly. 

" As long as I love you, I shall love them." 

" Now for the first time I know what you are. It 
is hard to leave you." 

" Farewell, Gosta ! Go, and God be with you ! 
My love shall not tempt you to sin." 

She turned to go in. He followed her. 

" Will you soon forget me ? " 

" Go, Gosta ! We are only human." 

He threw himself down in the sledge, but then she 
came back again. 

" Do you not think of the wolves? " 

" Just of them I am thinking, but they have done 


their work. From me they have nothing more to 
get this night." 

Once more he stretched his arms towards her, but 
Don Juan became impatient and set off. He did not 
take the reins. He sat backwards and looked after 
her. Then he leaned against the seat and wept 

" I have possessed happiness and driven her from 
me; I myself drove her from me. Why did I not 
keep her? " 

Ah, Gosta Berling, strongest and weakest of men I 


'50 has 
"^ too 



War-horse ! war-horse ! Old friend, who now stand 
tethered in the pasture, do you remember your 

Do you remember the day of the battle? You 
sprang forward, as if you had been borne on wings, 
your mane fluttered about you like waving flames, on 
your black haunches shone drops of blood and frothy 
foam. In harness of gold you bounded forward ; the 
ground thundered under you. You trembled with 
joy. Ah, how beautiful you were! 

It is the gray hour of twilight in the pensioners' 
wing. In the big room the pensioners' red-painted 
chests stand against the walls, and their holiday 
clothes hang on hooks in the corner. The firelight 
plays on the white-washed walls and on the yellow- 
striped curtains which conceal the beds. The pen- 
sioners' wing is not a kingly dwelling, — no seraglio 
with cushioned divans and soft pillows. 

But there lilliecrona's violin is heard. He is play- 
ing the cachucha in the dusk of the evening. And 
he plays it over and over again. 

Cut the strings, break his bow! Why does he 
play that cursed dance? Why does he play it, when 
Omeclou, the ensign, is lying sick with the pains of 
gout, so severe that he cannot move in his bed? No ; 


their,, the violin away and throw it against the wall 
gejfc'will not stop. 

'La cachucha, is it for us, master? Shall it be 
.danced over the shaking floor of the pensioners' 
wing, between the narrow walls, black with smoke 
and greasy with dirt, under that low ceiUng? Woe 
to you, to play so. 

La cachucha, is it for us, — for us pensioners ? With- 
out the snow-storm howls. Do you think to teach 
the snow-flakes to dance in time? Are you playing 
for the light-footed children of the storm? 

Maiden forms, which tremble with the throbbing 
of hot blood, small sooty hands, which have thrown 
aside the pot to seize the castanets, bare feet under 
tucked-up skirts, courts paved with marble slabs, 
crouching gypsies with bagpipe, and tambourine, 
Moorish arcades, moonlight, and black eyes, — have 
you these, master? If not, let the violin rest 

The pensioners are drying their wet clothes by the 
fire. Shall they swing in high boots with iron-shod 
heels and inch-thick soles? Through snow yards 
deep they have waded the whole day to reach the 
bear's lair. Do you think they will dance in wet, 
reeking homespun clothes, with shaggy bruin as a 

An evening sky glittering with stars, red roses in 
dark hair, troublous tenderness in the air, untutored 
grace in their movements, love rising from the 
ground, raining from the sky, floating in the air, — 
have you all that, master? If not, why do you force 
us to long for such things? 

Most cruel of men, are you summoning the tethered 
war-horse to the combat? Rutger von Orneclou is 
lying in his bed, a prisoner to the gout. Spare him 


the pain of tender memories, master ! He too has 
worn sombrero and bright-colored hair-net; he too 
has owned velvet jacket and belted poniard. Spare 
ojd Orneclou, master ! 

But Lilliecrona plays the cachucha, always the 
cachucha, and Orneclou is tortured like the lover 
when he sees the swallow fly away to his beloved's 
distant dwelling, like the hart when he is driven by 
the hurrying chase past the cooling spring. 

Lilliecrona takes the violin for a second from his 

"Ensign, do you remember Rosalie von Berger?" 

Orneclou swears a solemn oath. 

"She was light as a candle-flame. She sparkled 
and danced like the diamond in the end of the fiddle- 
bow. You must remember her in the theatre at 
Karlstad. We saw her when we were young; do 
you remember?" 

And the ensign remembered. She was small and 
ardent. She was like a sparkling flame. She could 
dance la cachucha. She taught all the young men 
in Karlstad to dance cachucha and to play the casta- 
nets. At the governor's ball a pas de deux was danced 
by the ensign and Mile, von Berger, dressed as 

And he had danced as one dances under fig-trees 
and magnolias, like a Spaniard, — a real Spaniard. 

No one in the whole of Varmland could dance 
cachucha like him. No one could dance it so that 
it was worth speaking of it, but he. 

What a cavalier Viirmland lost when the gout 
stiffened his legs and great lumps grew out on his 
joints ! What a cavalier he had been, so slender, so 
handsome, so courtly ! " The handsome Orneclou " 


he was called by those young girls, who were ready 
to come to blows over a dance with him. 

Then Lilliecrona begins the cachucha again, always 
the cachucha, and Orneclou is taken back to old 

There he stands, and there she stands, Rosalie von 
Berger. Just now they were alone in the dressing- 
room. She was a Spaniard, he too. He was allowed 
to kiss her, but carefully, for she was afraid of his 
blackened moustache. Now they dance. Ah, as one 
dances under fig-trees and magnolias! She draws 
away, he follows ; he is bold, she proud ; he wounded, 
she conciliatory. When he at the end falls on his 
knees and receives her in his outstretched arms, a 
sigh goes through the ball-room, a sigh of rapture. 

He had been like a Spaniard, a real Spaniard. 

Just at that stroke had he bent so, stretched his 
arms so, and put out his foot to glide forward. What 
grace ! He might have been hewn in marble. 

He does not know how it happened, but he has 
got his foot over the edge of the bed, he stands 
upright, he bends, he raises his arms, snaps his 
fingers, and wishes to glide forward over the floor in 
the same way as long ago, when he wore so tight 
patent leather shoes the stocking feet had to be cut 

"Bravo, Orneclou! Bravo, Lilliecrona, play life 
into him ! " 

His foot gives way ; he cannot rise on his toe. He 
kicks a couple of times with one leg ; he can do no 
more, he falls back on the bed. 

Handsome sefior, you have grown old. 

Perhaps the sefiorita has too. 

It is only under the plane-trees of Granada that 


the cachucha is danced by eternally young gitanas. 
Eternally young, because, like the roses, each spring 
brings new ones. 

So now the time has come to cut the strings. 

No, play on, Lilliecrona, play the cachucha, always 
the cachucha ! 

Teach us that, although we have got slow bodies 
and stiff joints, in our feelings we are always the 
same, always Spaniards. 

War-horse, war-horse ! 

Say that you love the trumpet-blast, which decoys 
you into a gallop, even if you also cut your foot to 
the bone on the steel-link of the tether. 





Ah, women of the olden times ! 

To speak of you is to speak of the kingdom of 
heaven; you were all beauties, ever bright, ever 
young, ever lovely and gentle as a mother's eyes 
when she looks down on her child. Soft as young 
squirrels you hung on your husband's neck. Your 
voice never trembled with anger, no frowns ruffled 
your brow, your white hand was never harsh and 
hard. You, sweet saints, like adored images stood 
in the temple of home. Incense and prayers were 
offered you, through you love worked its wonders, 
and round your temples poetry wreathed its gold, 
gleaming glory. 

Ah, women of the past, this is the story of how 
one of you gave Gosta Berling her love. 

Two weeks after the ball at Borg there was one at 

What a feast it was ! Old men and women be- 
come young again, smile and rejoice, only in speaking 
of it. 

The pensioners were masters at* Ekeby at that 
time. The major's wife went about the country 
with beggar's wallet and crutch, and the major lived 
at Sjo. He could not even be present at the ball, 
for at Sjo small-pox had broken out, and he was 
afraid to spread the infection. 


What pleasures those twelve hours contained, from 
the pop of the first cork at the dinner-table to the 
last wail of the violins, long after midnight. 

They have sunk into the background of time, those 
crowned hours, made magical by the most fiery 
wines, by the most delicate food, by the most inspir- 
ing music, by the wittiest of theatricals, by the most 
beautiful tableaux. They have sunk away, dizzy with 
the dizziest dance. Where are to be found such 
polished floors, such courtly knights, such lovely 
women ? 

Ah, women of the olden days, you knew well how 
to adorn a ball. Streams of fire, of genius, and 
youthful vigor thrilled each and all who approached 
you. It was worth wasting one's gold on wax-candles 
to light up your loveliness, on wine to instil gayety 
into your hearts ; it was worth dancing soles to dust 
and rubbing stiff arms which had drawn the fiddle- 
bow, for your sakes. 

Ah, women of the olden days, it was you who 
owned the key to the door of Paradise. 

The halls of Ekeby are crowded with the loveliest 
of your lovely throng. There is the young Countess 
Dohna, sparklingly gay and eager for game and 
dance, as befits her twenty years ; there are the lovely 
daughters of the judge of Munkerud, and the lively 
young ladies from Berga; there is Anna Stjarn- 
hok, a thousand times more beautiful than ever 
before, with that gentle dreaminess which had come 
over her ever since the night she had been hunted 
by wolves; there are many more, who are not yet 
forgotten but soon will be ; and there is the beautiful 
Marianne Sinclair. 

She, the famed queen of beauty, who had shone 


at royal courts, who had travelled the land over and 
received homage everywhere, she who lighted the 
spark of love wherever she showed herself, — she had 
deigned to come to the pensioners' ball. 

At that time Varmland's glory was at its height, 
borne up by many proud names. Much had the 
beautiful land's happy children to be proud of, but 
when they named their glories they never neglected 
to speak of Marianne Sinclair. 

The tales of her conquests filled the land. 

They spoke of the coronets which had floated 
over her head, of the millions which had been laid 
at her feet, of the warriors' swords and poets* wreaths 
whose splendor had tempted her. 

And she possessed not only beauty. She was 
witty and learned. The cleverest men of the day 
were glad to talk with her. She was not an author 
herself, but many of her ideas, which she had put 
into the souls of her poet-friends, lived again in song. 

In Varmland, in the land of the bear, she seldom 
stayed. Her life was spent in perpetual journeyings. 
Her father, the rich Melchior Sinclair, remained 
at home at Bjorne and let Marianne go to her 
noble friends in the large towns or at the great 
country-seats. He had his pleasure in telling of 
all the money she wasted, and both the old people 
lived happy in the splendor of Marianne's glowing 

Her life was a life of pleasures and homage. The 
air about her was love — love her light and lamp, 
love her daily bread. 

She, too, had often loved, often, often ; but never 
had that fire lasted long enough to forge the chains 
which bind for life. 


" I wait for him, the irresistible," she used to say 
of love. " Hitherto he has not climbed over several 
ramparts, nor swum through several trenches. He 
has come tamely, without wildness in his eye and 
madness in his heart I wait for the conqueror, who 
shall take me out of myself I mil feel love so 
strong within me that I must tremble before him ; 
now I know only the love at which my good sense 

Her presence gave fire to talk, life to the wine. 
Her glowing spirit set the fiddle-bows going, and the 
dance Eoated in sweeter giddiness than before over 
the floor which she had touched with her feet. She 
was radiant in the tableaux, she gave genius to the 
comedy, her lovely lips — 

Ah, hush, it was not her fault, she never meant 
to do it I It was the balcony, it was the moonlight, 
the lace veil, the knightly dress, the song, which were 
to blame. The poor young creatures were innocent. 

All that which led to so much unhappiness was 
with the best intentions. Master Julius, who could 
do anything, had arranged a tableau especially that 
Marianne might shine in full glory. 

In the theatre, which was set up in the great 
drawing-room at Ekeby, sat the hundred guests 
and looked at the picture, Spain's yellow moon 
wandering through a dark night sky. A Don Juan 
came stewing along Sevilla's street and stopped under 
an ivy-clad balcony. He was disguised as a monk, 
but one could see an embroidered cuff under the 
sleeve, and a gleaming sword-point under the mantle's 

He nused his voice in song : — 


^* I kiss the lips of no fair maid, 
Nor wet mine with the foaming wine 

Within the beaker's gold. 
A cheek upon whose rose-leaf shade 
Mine eyes have lit a glow divine, 
A look which shyly seeketh mine, — 

These leave me still and cold. 

" Ah, come not in thy beauty's glow, 
Sefiora, through yon terrace-door ; 

I fear when thou art nigh ! 
Cope and stole my shoulders know, 
The Virgin only I adore. 
And water-jugs hold comfort's store ; 

For ease to them I fly." 

As he finished, Marianne came out on the balcony, 
dressed in black velvet aiid lace veil. She leaned 
over the balustrade and sang slowly and ironically : 

" Why tarry thus, thou holy man 
Beneath my window late or long ? 
Dost pray for my souPs weal ? " 

Then suddenly, warmly and eagerly : — 

" Ah, flee, begone while yet you can ! 
Your gleaming sword sticks forth so long, 
And plainly, spite your holy song. 
The spurs clank on your heel." 

At these words the monk cast off his disguise, and 
Gosta Berling stood under the balcony in a knighfs 
dress of silk and gold. He heeded not the beauty's 
warning, but climbed up one of the balcony supports, 
swung himself over the balustrade, and, just as Master 
Julius had arranged it, fell on his knees at the lovely 
Marianne's feet 


Graciously she smiled on him, and gave hini her 
hand to kiss, and while the two young people gazed 
at one another, absorbed in their love, the curtain 

And before her knelt Gosta Berling, with a face 
tender as a poet's and bold as a soldier's, with deep 
eyes, which glowed with wit and genius, which im- 
plored and constrained. Supple and full of strength 
was he, fiery and captivating. 

While the curtain went up and down, the two stood 
always in the same position, Gosta's eyes held the 
lovely Marianne fast; they implored; they con- 

Then the applause ceased ; the curtain hung quiet; 
no one saw them. 

Then the beautiful Marianne bent down and kissed 
Gosta Berling. She did not know why, — she had to. 
He stretched up his arms about her head and held 
, her fast. She kissed him again and again. 

But it was the balcony, it was the moonlight, it 
was the lace veil, the knightly dress, the song, the 
applause, which were to blame. They had not wished 
it. She bad not thrust aside the crowns which had 
hovered over her head, and spurned the millions 
which lay at her feet, out of love for Gosta Berling; 
nor had he already forgotten Anna Stjamhok. No ; 
they were blameless; neither of them had wished it. 

It was the gentie Lowenborg, — he with the fear in 
his eye and the smile on his lips, — who that day was 
curtain-raiser. Distracted by the memory of many 
sorrows, he noticed little of the things of this world, 
and had never learned to look after them rightly. 
When he now saw that Gosta and Marianne had 
taken a new position, he thought that it also be- 


longed to the tableau, and so he began to drag on 
the curtain string. 

The two on the balcony observed nothing until a 
thunder of applause greeted them. 

Marianne started back and wished to flee, but Gosta 
held her fast, whispering : — 

" Stand still ; they think it belongs to the tableau." 

He felt how her body shook with shuddering, and 
how the fire of her kisses died out on her lips. 

" Do not be afraid," he whispered ; " lovely lips have 
a right to kiss." 

They had to stand while the curtain went up and 
went down, and each time the hundreds of eyes saw 
them, hundreds of hands thundered out a stormy 

For it was beautiful to see two fair young people 
represent love's happiness. No one could think that 
those kisses were anything but stage delusion. No 
one guessed that the seflora shook with embarrass- 
ment and the knight with uneasiness. No one could 
think that it did not all belong to the tableau. 

At last Marianne and Gosta stood behind the 

She pushed her hair back from her forehead. 

" I don't understand myself," she said. 

" Fie ! for shame. Miss Marianne," said he, grimac- 
ing, and stretched out his hands. "To kiss Gosta 
Berling ; shame on you ! " 

Marianne had to laugh. 

"Everyone knows that Gosta Berling is irresistible. 
My fault is no greater than others'." 

And they agreed to put a good face on it, so that 
no one should suspect the truth. 

" Can I be sure that the truth will never come out 


//!wr Gosta?" she asked, before they went out among 
the guests. 

" That you can. Gentlemen can hold their tongues. 
I promise you that." 

She dropped her eyes. A strange smile curved 
her lips. 

" If the truth should come out, what would people 
think of me, Herr Gosta?" 

"They would not think anything. They would 
know that it meant nothing. They would think that 
we entered into our parts and were going on with the 

Yet another question, with lowered lids and with 
the same forced smile, — 

" But you yourself? What do you think about 
it, Herr Gosta?" 

" I think that you are in love with me," he jested. 

" Think no such thing," she smiled, " for then I 
must run you through with my stiletto to show you 
that you are wroi^." 

" Women's kisses are precious," said Gosta. 
" Does it cost one's life to be kissed by Marianne 
Sinclair ? " 

A glance flashed on him from Marianne's eyes, so 
sharp that it felt like a blow. 

" I could wish to see you dead, Gosta Berling ! 
dead ! dead ! " 

These words revived the old longing in the poef s 

" Ah," he said, " would that those words were more 
than words ! — that they were arrows which came 
whistling from some dark ambush; that they were 
daggers or poison, and had the power to destroy 
dlis wretched body and set my soul free I " 


She was calm and smiling now. 

'' Childishness ! '' she said, and took his arm to join 
the guests. 

They kept their costumes, and their triumphs were 
renewed when they showed themselves in front of 
the scenes. Every one complimented them. No 
one suspected anything. 

The ball began again, but Gosta escaped from the 

His heart ached from Marianne's glance, as if it 
had been wounded by sharp steel. He understood 
too well the meaning of her words. 

It was a disgrace to love him ; it was a disgrace to 
be loved by him, a shame worse than death. 

He would never dance again. He wished never to 
see them again, those lovely women. 

He knew it too well. Those beautiful eyes, those 
red cheeks burned not for him. Not for him floated 
those light feet, nor rung that low laugh. 

Yes, dance with him, flirt with him, that they could 
do, but not one of them would be his in earnest. 

The poet went into the smoking-room to the old 
men, and sat down by one of the card-tables. He 
happened to throw himself down by the same table 
where the powerful master of Bjorne sat and played 
" baccarat *' holding the bank with a great pile of sil- 
ver in front of him. 

The play was already high. Gosta gave it an even 
greater impulse. Green bank-notes appeared, and 
always the pile of money grew in front of the power- 
ful Melchior Sinclair. 

But before Gosta also gathered both coins and 
notes, and soon he was the only one who held out 
in the struggle against the great land-owner at Bjorne. 


Soon the great pile of money changed over from 
Melchior Sinclair to Gosta Berling. 

" Gosta, my boy," cried the land-owner, laughing, 
when he had played away everything he had in his 
pocket-book and purse, "what shall we do now? 
I am bankrupt, and I never play with borrowed 
money. I promised my wife that." 

He discovered a way. He played away his watch 
and his beaver coat, and was just going to stake his 
horse and sledge when Sintram checked him. 

"Stake something to win on," he advised him. 
" Stake something to turn the luck." 

" What the devil have I got? " 

" Play your reddest heart's blood, brother Melchior. 
Stake your daughter ! " 

" You would never venture that," said Grosta, laugh- 
ing. "That prize I would never get under my 

Melchior could not help laughing also. He could 
not endure that Marianne's name should be men- 
tioned at the card-tables, but this was so insanely 
ridiculous that he could not be angry. To play 
away Marianne to Gosta, yes, that he certainly could 

" That is to say," he explained, " that if you can 
win her consent, Gosta, I will stake my blessing to 
the marriage on this card." 

Gosta staked all his winnings and the play began. 
He won, and Sinclair stopped playing. He could 
not fight against such bad luck ; he saw that. 

The night slipped by ; it was past midnight. The 
lovely women's cheeks began to grow pale; curls 
hung straight, ruffles were crumpled. The old ladies 
rose up from the sofa-corners and said that as they 


had been there twelve hours, it was about time for 
them to be thinking of home. 

And the beautiful ball should be over, but then 
Lilliecrona himself seized the fiddle and struck up 
the last polka. The horses stood at the door; the 
old ladies were dressed in their cloaks and shawls; 
the old men wound their plaids about them and 
buckled their galoshes. 

But the young people could not tear themselves 
from the dance. They danced in their out-door wraps, 
and a mad dance it was. As soon as a girl stopped 
dancing with one partner, another came and dragged 
her away with him. 

And even the sorrowful Gosta was dragged into 
the whirl. He hoped to dance away grief and hu- 
miliation ; he wished to have the love of life in his 
blood again ; he longed to be gay, he as well as the 
others. And he danced till the walls went round, 
and he no longer knew what he was doing. 

Who was it he had got hold of in the crowd ? She 
was light and supple, and he felt that streams of fire 
went from one to the other. Ah, Marianne ! 

While Gosta danced with Marianne, Sintram sat in 
his sledge before the door, and beside him stood 
Melchior Sinclair. 

The great land-owner was impatient at being forced 
to wait for Marianne. He stamped in the snow with 
his great snow-boots and beat with his arms, for it 
was bitter cold. 

" Perhaps you ought not to have played Marianne 
away to Gosta," said Sintram. 

" What do you mean ? " 

Sintram arranged his reins and lifted his whip, 
before he answered : — 


" It did not belong to the tableau, that kissing." 

The powerful land-owner raised his arm for a death- 
blow, but Sintram was already gone. He drove away, 
whippit^ the horse to a wild gallop without daring to 
look back, for Melchior Sinclair had a heavy hand 
and short patience. 

He went now into the dancing-room to look for his 
daughter, and saw how Gosta and Marianne were 

Wild and giddy was that last polka. 

Some of the couples were pale, others glowing 
red, dust lay like smoke over the hall, the wax- 
candles gleamed, burned down to the sockets, and in 
the midst of all the ghostly ruin, they flew on, Gosta 
and Marianne, royal in their tireless strength, no 
blemish on their beauty, happy in the glorious motion. 

Melchior Sinclair watched them for a while; but 
then he went and left Marianne to dance. He 
slammed the door, tramped down the stairs, and 
placed himself in the sledge, where his wife already 
waited, and drove home. 

When Marianne stopped dancing and asked after 
her parents, they were gone. 

When she was certain of this she showed no sur- 
prise. She dressed herself quietly and went out in 
the yard. The ladies in the dressing-room thought 
that she drove in her own sledge. 

She hurried in her thin satin shoes along the road 
without telling any one of her distress. 

In the darkness no one recognized her, as she went 
by the edge of the road ; no one could think that this 
late wanderer, who was driven up into the high drifts 
by the passing sledges, was the beautiful Marianne. 

When she could go in the middle of the road she 


began to run. She ran as long as she wa» able, then 
walked for a while, then ran again. A hideous, tortur- 
ing fear drove her on. 

From Ekeby to Bjorne it cannot be farther than at 
most two miles. Marianne was soon at home, but she 
thought almost that she had come the wrong way. 
When she reached the house all the doors were closed, 
all the lights out; she wondered if her parents had 
not come home. 

She went forward and twice knocked loudly on the 
front door. She seized the door-handle and shook it 
till the noise resounded through the whole house. 
No one came and opened, but when she let the iron 
go, which she had grasped with her bare hands, the 
fast-frozen skin was torn from them. 

Melchior Sinclair had driven home in order to shut 
his door on his only child. 

He was drunk with much drinking, wild with rage. 
He hated his daughter, because she liked Gosta Ber- 
ling. He had shut the servants into the kitchen, and 
his wife in the bedroom. With solemn oaths he told 
them that the one who let Marianne in, he would beat 
to a jelly. And they knew that he would keep his 

No one had ever seen him so angry. Such a grief 
had never come to him before. Had his daughter 
come into his presence, he would perhaps have killed 

Golden ornaments, silken dresses had he given her, 
wit and learning had been instilled in her. She had 
been his pride, his glory. He had been as proud of 
her as if she had worn a crown. Oh, his queen, his 
goddess, his honored, beautiful, proud Marianne! 
Had he ever denied her anything? Had he not always 


considered himself too common to be her father? 
Oh, Marianne, Marianne ! 

Ought he not to hate her, when she is in love with 
Gosta Berling and kisses him? Should he not cast 
her out, shut his door against her, when she will dis- 
grace her greatness by loving such a man? Let her 
stay at Ekeby, let her run to the neighbors for shelter, 
let her sleep in the snow-drifts ; it 's all the same, she 
has already been dragged in the dirt, the lovely Mari- 
anne. The bloom is gone. The lustre of her life is 

He lies there in his bed, and hears how she beats on 
the door. What does thiat matter to him? He is 
asleep. Outside stands one who will marry a dis- 
missed priest ; he has no home for such a one. If he 
had loved her less, if he had been less proud of her, 
he could have let her come in. 

Yes, his blessing he could not refuse them. He had 
played it away. But to open the door for her, that 
he would not do. Ah, Marianne ! 

The beautiful young woman still stood outside the 
door of her home. One minute she shook the lock 
in powerless rage, the next she fell on her knees, 
clasped her mangled hands, and begged for forgiveness. 

But no one heard her, no one answered, no one 
opened to her. 

Oh ! was it not terrible ? I am filled with horror as 
I tell of it. She came from a ball whose queen she 
had been ! She had been proud, rich, happy; and in 
one minute she was cast into such an endless misery. 
Shut out from her home, exposed to the cold, — not 
scorned, not beaten, not cursed, but shut out with 
cold, immovable lovelessness. 

Think of the cold, starlit night, which spread its 



arch above her, the great wide night with the empty, 
desolate snow-fields, with the silent woods. Every- 
thing slept, everything was sunk in painless sleep; 
only one living point in all that sleeping whiteness. 
All sorrow and pain and horror, which otherwise had 
been spread over the world, crept forward towards 
that one lonely point. O God, to suffer alone in the 
midst of this sleeping, ice-bound world ! 

For the first time in her life she met with unmerci- 
fulness and hardness. Her mother would not take the 
trouble to leave her bed to save her. The old servants, 
who had guided her first steps, heard her and did not 
move a finger for her sake. For what crime was she 
punished ? 

Where should she find compassion, if not at this 
door? If she had been a murderess, she would still 
have knocked on it, knowing that they would forgive 
her. If she had sunk to being the most miserable 
of creatures, come wasted and in rags, she would still 
confidently have gone up to that door, and expected 
a loving welcome. That door was the entrance to 
her home ; behind it she could only meet with love. 

Had not her father tried her enough? Would they 
not soon open to her? 

" Father, father ! " she called. " Let me come in ! I 
freeze, I tremble. It is terrible out here ! 

" Mother, mother ! You who have gone so many 
steps to serve me, you who have watched so many 
nights over me, why do you sleep now? Mother, 
mother, wake just this one night, and I will never give 
you pain again ! " 

She calls, and falls into breathless silence to listen 
for an answer. But no one heard her, no one obeyed 
her, no one answered. 


Then she wrings her hands in despair, but there are 
no tears in her eyes. 

The long, dark house with its closed doors and 
darkened windows lay awful and motionless in the 
night What would become of her, who was home- 
less? Branded and dishonored was she, as long as 
she encumbered the earth. And her father himself 
pressed the red-hot iron deeper into her shoulders. 

** Father," she called once more, " what will become 
of me? People will believe the worst of me." 

She wept and suffered ; her body was stiff with 

Alas, that such misery can reach one, who but 
lately stood so high ! It is so easy to be plunged into 
the deepest suffering ! Should we not fear life ? Who 
sails in a safe craft? Round about us swell sorrows 
like a heaving ocean ; see how the hungry waves lick 
the ship's sides, see how they rage up over her. Ah, 
no safe anchorage, no solid ground, no steady ship, as 
far as the eye can see ; only an unknown sky over an 
ocean of sorrow ! 

But hush ! At last, at last ! A light step comes 
through the hall. 

" Is it mother?" asked Marianne. 

" Yes, my child." 

" May I come in now?" 

" Father will not let you come in." 

" I have run in the snow-drifts in my thin shoes all 
the way from Ekeby. I have stood here an hour and 
knocked and called. I am freezing to death out here. 
Why did you drive away and leave me?" 

" My child, my child, why did you kiss Gosta 

'' But father must have seen that I do not like him 


for that. It was in fun. Does he think that I will 
marry Gosta?" 

** Go to the gardener's house, Marianne, and beg 
that you pass the night there. Your father is drunk. 
He will not listen to reason. He has kept me a 
prisoner up there. I crept out when I thought he 
was asleep. He will kill me, if you come in." 

** Mother, mother, shall I go to strangers when I 
have a home? Are you as hard as father? How can 
you allow me to be shut out? I will lay myself in the 
drift out here, if you do not let me in." 

Then Marianne's mother laid her hand on the lock 
to open the door, but at the same moment a heavy 
step was heard on the stair, and a harsh voice called 

Marianne listened: her mother hurried away, the 
harsh voice cursed her and then — 

Marianne heard something terrible, — she could 
hear every sound in the silent house. 

She heard the thud of a blow, a blow with a stick 
or a box on the ear ; then she heard a faint noise, and 
then again a blow. 

He struck her mother, the terrible brutal Melchior 
Sinclair struck his wife ! 

And in pale horror Marianne threw herself down 
on the threshold and writhed in anguish. Now she 
wept, and her tears froze to ice on the threshold of 
her home. 

Grace ! pity ! Open, open, that she might bend 
her own back under the blows ! Oh, that he could 
strike her mother, strike her, because she did not 
wish to see her daughter the next day lying dead in 
the snow-drift, because she had wished to comfort her 
child I 


Great humiliation had come to Marianne that night 
She had fancied herself a queen, and she lay there 
little better than a whipped slave. 

But she rose up in cold rage. Once more she 
struck the door with her bloody hand and called : — 

"Hear what I say to you, — you, who beat my 
mother. You shall weep for this, Melchior Sinclair, 
weep ! " 

Then she went and laid herself to rest in the snow- 
drift. She threw off her cloak and lay in her black vel- 
vet dress, easily distinguishable against the white snow. 
She lay and thought how her father would come out 
the next day on his early morning tour of inspection 
and find her there. She only hoped that he himself 
might find her. 

O Death, pale friend, is it as true as it is consoling, 
that I never can escape meeting you? Even to me, 
the lowliest of earth's workers, will you come, to loosen 
the torn leather shoes from my feet, to take the spade 
and the barrow from my hand, to take the working- 
dress from my body. With gentle force you lay me 
out on a lace-trimmed bed; you adorn me with 
draped linen sheets. My feet need no more shoes, 
my hands are clad in snow-white gloves, which no 
more work shall soil. Consecrated by thee to the 
sweetness of rest, I shall sleep a sleep of a thousand 
years. Oh deliverer ! The lowliest of earth's laborers 
am I, and I dream with a thrill of pleasure of the hour 
when I shall be received into your kingdom. 

Pale friend, on me you can easily try your strength, 
but I tell you that the fight was harder against those 
women of the olden days. Life's strength was mighty 
in their slender bodies, no cold could cool their hot 


blood. You had laid Marianne on your bed, O 
Death, and you sat by her side, as an old nurse sits 
by the cradle to lull the child to sleep. You faithful 
old nurse, who know what is good for the children 
of men, how angry you must be when playmates 
come, who with noise and romping wake your sleep- 
ing child. How vexed you must have been when 
the pensioners lifted the lovely Marianne out of the 
bed, when a man laid her against his breast, and 
warm tears fell from his eyes on to her face. 

At Ekeby all lights were out, and all the guests had 
gone. The pensioners stood alone in the bachelors' 
wing, about the last half-emptied punch bowl. 

Then Gosta rung on the edge of the bowl and made 
a speech for you, women of the olden days. To 
speak of you, he said, was to speak of the kingdom 
of heaven : you were all beauties, ever bright, ever 
young, ever lovely and gentle as a mother's eyes 
when she looks down on her child. Soft as young 
squirrels you hung on your husband's neck, your 
voice never trembled with anger, no frowns ruffled 
your brow, your white hands were never harsh and 
hard. Sweet saints, you were adored images in the 
temple of home. Men lay at your feet, offering you 
incense and prayers. Through you love worked its 
wonders, and round your temples poetry wreathed its 
gold, gleaming glory. 

And the pensioners sprang up, wild with wine, 
wild with his words, with their blood raging. Old 
Eberhard and the lazy Christopher drew back from 
the sport. In the wildest haste the pensioners har- 
nessed horses to sledges and hurried out in the cold 
night to pay homage to those who never could be 


honored enough, to sing a serenade to each and all of 
them who possessed the rosy cheeks and bright eyes 
which had just lighted up Ekeby halls. 

But the pensioners did not go far on their happy way, 
for when they came to Bjorne, they found Marianne 
lying in the snow-drift, just by the door of her home. 

They trembled and raged to see her there. It 
was like finding a worshipped saint lying mangled and 
stripped outside the church-door. 

Gosta shook his clenched hand at the dark house. 
" You children of hate," he cried, " you hail-storms, 
you ravagers of God's pleasure-house ! " 

Beerencreutz lighted his horn lantern and let it 
shine down on the livid face. Then the pensioners 
saw Marianne's mangled hands, and the tears which 
had frozen to ice on her eyelashes, and they wailed 
like women, for she was not merely a saintly image, 
but a beautiful woman, who had been a joy to their 
old hearts. 

Gosta Berling threw himself on his knees beside her. 

" She is lying here, my bride," he said. " She gave 
me the betrothal kiss a few hours ago, and her 
father has promised me his blessing. She lies and 
waits for me to come and share her white bed." 

And Gosta lifted up the lifeless form in his strong 

" Home to Ekeby with her ! " he cried. " Now 
she is mine. In the snow-drift I have found her ; no 
one shall take her from me. We will not wake them 
in there. What has she to do behind those doors, 
against which she has beaten her hand into blood ? " 

He was allowed to do as he wished. He laid 
Marianne in the foremost sledge and sat down at her 
side. Beerencreutz sat behind and took the reins. 


" Take snow and rub her, Gosta ! '* he commanded. 

The cold had paralyzed her limbs, nothing more. 
The wildly agitated heart still beat. She had not 
even lost consciousness ; she knew all about the pen- 
sioners, and how they had found her, but she could 
not move. So she lay stiff and stark in the sledge, 
while Gosta Berling rubbed her with snow and alter- 
nately wept and kissed, and she felt an infinite long- 
ing to be able only to lift a hand, that she might give 
a caress in return. 

She remembered everything. She lay there stiff 
and motionless and thought more clearly than ever 
•before. Was she in love with Gosta Berling? Yes, 
she was. Was it merely a whim of the moment? 
No, it had been for many years. She compared 
herself with him and the other people in Varmland. 
They were all just like children. They followed 
whatever impulse came to them. They only lived 
the oufer life, had never looked deep into their souls. 
But she had become what one grows to be by living in 
the world ; she could never really lose herself in any- 
thing. If she loved, yes, whatever she did, one half 
of her stood and looked on with a cold scorn. She 
had longed for a passion which should carry her 
away in wild heedlessness, and now it had come. 
When she kissed Gosta Berling on the balcony, for 
the first time she had forgotten herself 

And now the passion came over her again, her 
heart throbbed so that she heard it beat. Should 
she not soon be mistress of her limbs? She felt a 
wild joy that she had been thrust out from her home. 
Now she could be Gosta's without hesitation. How 
stupid she had been, to have subdued her love so 
many years. Ah, it is so sweet to yield to love. 


But shall she never, never be free from these icy 
chains? She has been ice within and fire on the sur- 
face ; now it is the opposite, a soul of fire in a body 
of ice. 

Then Gosta feels how two arms gently are raised 
about his neck in a weak, feeble pressure. 

He could only just feel them, but Marianne thought 
that she gave expression to the suppressed passion in 
her by a suffocating embrace. 

But when Beerencreutz saw it he let the horse go 
as it would along the familiar road. He raised his 
eyes and looked obstinately and unceasingly at the 




If it should happen to you that you are sitting or 
lying and reading this at night, as I am writing it 
during the silent hours, then do not draw a sigh of 
relief here and think that the good pensioners were 
allowed to have an undisturbed sleep, after they had 
come back with Marianne and made her a good bed 
in the best guest-room beyond the big drawing- 

They went to bed, and went to sleep, but it was not 
their lot to sleep in peace and quiet till noon, as you 
and I, dear reader, might have done, if we had been 
awake till four in the morning and our limbs ached 
with fatigue. 

It must not be forgotten that the old major's wife 
went about the country with beggar's wallet and stick, 
and that it never was her way, when she had anything 
to do, to think of a poor tired sinner's convenience. 
And now she would do it even less, as she had de- 
cided to drive the pensioners that very night from 

Gone was the day when she sat in splendor and 
magnificence at Ekeby and sowed happiness over the 
earth, as God sows stars over the skies. And while 
she wandered homeless about the land, the authority 
and honor of the great estate was left in the pension- 


ers' hands to be guarded by them, as the wind guards 
ashes, as the spring sun guards the snow-drift. 

It sometimes happened that the pensioners drove 
out, six or eight of them, in a long sledge drawn by- 
four horsey, with chiming bells and braided reins. If 
they met the major's wife, as she went as a beggar, 
they did not turn away their heads. 

Clenched fists were stretched against her. By a 
violent swing of the sledge, she was forced up into 
the drifts by the roadside, and Major Fuchs, the bear- 
killer, always took pains to spit three times to take 
away the evil effect of meeting the old woman. 

They had no pity on her. She was as odious as a 
witch to them as she went along the road. If any 
mishap had befallen her, they would no more have 
grieved than he who shoots off his gun on Easter Eve, 
loaded with brass hooks, grieves that he has hit a 
witch flying by. 

It was to secure their salvation that these unhappy 
pensioners persecuted the major's wife. People have 
often been cruel and tortured one another with the 
greatest hardness, when they have trembled for their 

When the pensioners late at night reeled from the 
drinking-tables to the window to see if the night was 
calm and clear, they often noticed a dark shadow, 
which glided over the grass, and knew that the 
major's wife had come to see her beloved home ; then 
the bachelors' wing rang with the pensioners' scornful 
laughter, and gibes flew from the open windows down 
to her. 

Verily, lovelessness and arrogance began to take 
possession of the penniless adventurers' hearts. Sin- 
tram hkd planted hate. Their souls could not have 


been in greater danger if the major's wife had re- 
mained at Ekeby. More die in flight than in battle. 

The major's wife cherished no great anger against 
the pensioners. 

If she had had the power, she would have whipped 
them like naughty boys and then granted them her 
grace and favor again. 

But now she feared for her beloved lands, which 
were in the pensioners' hands to be guarded by them, as 
wolves guard the sheep, as crows guard the spring grain. 

There are many who have suffered the same sor- 
row. She is not the only one who has seen ruin come 
to a beloved home and well-kept fields fall into decay. 
They have seen their childhood's home look at them 
like a wounded animal. Many feel like culprits when 
they see the trees there wither away, and the paths 
covered with tufts of grass. They wish to throw 
themselves on their knees in those fields, which once 
boasted of rich harvests, and beg them not to blame 
them for the disgrace which befalls them. And they 
turn away from the poor old horses ; they have not 
courage to meet their glance. And they dare not 
stand by the gate and see the cattle come home from 
pasture. There is no spot on earth so sad to visit as 
an old home in ruin. 

When I think what that proud Ekeby must have 
suffered under the pensioners' rule, I wish that the 
plan of the major's wife had been fulfilled, and that 
Ekeby had been taken from them. 

It was not her thought to take back her dominion 

She had only one object, — to rid her home of these 
madmen, these locusts, these wild brigands, in whose 
path no grass grew. 


While she went begging about the land and lived 
on alms, she continually thought of her mother ; and 
the thought bit deep into her heart, that there could 
be no bettering for her till her mother lifted the 
curse from her shoulders. 

No one had ever mentioned the old woman's death, 
so she must be still living up there by the iron-works 
in the forest. Ninety years old, she still lived in 
unceasing labor, watching over her milk-pans in the 
summer, her charcoal-kilns in the winter, working 
till death, longing for the day when she would have 
completed her life's duties. 

And the major's wife thought that her mother had 
lived so long in order to be able to lift the curse from 
her life. That mother could not die who had called 
down such misery on her child. 

So the major's wife wanted to go to the old woman, 
that they might both get rest. She wished to struggle 
up through the dark woods by the long river to the 
home of her childhood. 

Till then she could not rest There were many 
who offered her a warm home and all the comforts 
of a faithful friendship, but she would not stop any- 
where. Grim and fierce, she went from house to 
house, for she was weighed down by the curse. 

She was going to struggle up to her mother, but 
first she wanted to provide for her beloved home. 
She would not go and leave it in the hands of light- 
minded spendthrifts, of worthless drunkards, of good- 
for-nothing dispersers of God's gifts. 

Should she go to find on her return her inheritance 
gone to waste, her hammers silent, her horses starv- 
ing, her servants scattered ? Ah, no, once more she 
will rise in her might and drive out the pensioners. 


She well understood that her husband saw with joy 
how her inheritance was squandered. But she knew 
him enough to understand, also, that if she drove 
away his devouring locusts, he would be too lazy to 
get new ones. Were the pensioners removed, then 
her old bailiff and overseer could carry on the work 
at Ekeby in the old grooves. 

And so, many nights her dark shadow had glided 
along the black lanes. She had stolen in and out of 
the cottagers' houses, she had whispered with the 
miller and the mill-hands in the lower floor of the 
great mill, she had conferred with the smith in the 
dark coal-house. 

And they had all sworn to help her. The honor 
of the great estate should no longer be left in the 
hands of careless pensioners, to be guarded as the 
wind guards the ashes, as the wolf guards the flock 
of sheep. 

And this night, when the merry gentlemen had 
danced, played, and drunk until they had sunk down 
on their beds in a dead sleep, this very night they 
must go. She has let them have their good time. 
She has sat in the smithy and awaited the end of the 
ball. She has waited still longer, until the pensioners 
should return from their nocturnal drive. She has 
sat in silent waiting, until the message was brought 
her that the last light was out in the bachelors' wing 
and that the great house slept. Then she rose and 
went out. 

The major's wife ordered that all the workmen on 
the estate should be gathered together up by the 
bachelors' wing; she herself went to the house. 
There she went to the main building, knocked, and 
was let in. The young daughter of the minister at 



Broby, whom she had trained to be a capable maid- 
servant, was there to meet her. 

"You are so welcome, madame," said the maid, 
and kissed her hand. 

" Put out the light ! " said the major's wife. *' Do 
you think I cannot find my way without a candle ? " 

And then she began a wandering through the silent 
house. She went from the cellar to the attic, and 
said farewell. With stealthy step they went from 
room to room. 

The major's wife was filled with old memories. The 
maid neither sighed nor sobbed, but tear after tear 
flowed unchecked from her eyes, while she followed 
her mistress. The major's wife had her open the 
linen-closet and silver-chest, and passed her hand over 
the fine damask table-cloths and the magnificent sil- 
ver service. She felt caressingly the mighty pile of 
pillows in the store-closet. She touched all the im- 
plements, the looms, the spinning-wheels, and wind- 
ing-bobbins. She thrust her hand into the spice-box, 
and felt the rows of tallow candles which hung from 

the rafters. 

" The candles are dry," she said. " They can be 

taken down and put away." 

She was down in the cellar, carefully lifted the beer- 
casks, and groped over the rows of wine bottles. 

She went into the pantry and kitchen ; she felt 
everything, examined everything. She stretched out 
her hand and said farewell to everything in her 

Last she went through the rooms. She found the 
long broad sofas in their places ; she laid her hand on 
the cool slabs of the marble tables, and on the mirrors 
with their frames of gilded dancing nymphs. 


** This is a rich house," she said. " A noble man 
was he who gave me all this for my own." 

In the great drawing-room, where the dance had 
lately whirled, the stiff-backed arm-chairs already 
stood in prim order against the walls. 

She went over to the piano, and very gently struck 
a chord. 

" Joy and gladness were no strangers here in my 
time, either," she said. 

She went also to the guest-room beyond. It was 
pitch-dark. The major's wife groped with her hands 
and came against the maid's face. 

"Are you weeping?" she said, for she felt her 
hands were wet with tears. 

Then the young girl burst out sobbing. 

" Madame," she cried, ** madame, they will destroy 
everything. Why do you leave us and let the pen- 
sioners ruin your house?" 

The major's wife drew back the curtain and pointed 
out into the yard. 

" Is it I who have taught you to weep and lament? " 
she cried. "Look out! the place is full of people; 
to-morrow there will not be one pensioner left at 

** Are you coming back? " asked the maid. 

"My time has not yet come," said the major's 
wife. "The highway is my home, and the haystack 
my bed. But you shall watch over Ekeby for me, 
child, while I am away." 

And they went on. Neither of them knew or 

thought that Marianne slept in that very room. But 

he did not sleep. She was wide awake, heard every- 

ling, and understood it all. She had lain there in 

A and sung a hymn to Love. 


" You conqueror, who have taken me out of my- 
self," she said, ** I lay in fathomless misery and you 
have changed it to a paradise. My hands stuck fast 
to the iron latch of the closed door and were torn 
and wounded ; on the threshold of my home my tears 
lie frozen to pearls of ice. Anger froze my heart 
when I heard the blows on my mother's back. In the 
cold snow-drift I hoped to sleep away my anger, 
but you came. O Love, child of fire, to one who was 
frozen by much cold you came. When I compare 
my sufferings to the glory won by them, they seem to 
me as nothing. I am free of all ties. I have no 
father nor mother, no home. People will believe all 
evil of me and turn away from me. It has pleased 
you to do this, O Love, for why should I stand 
higher than my beloved? Hand in hand we will 
wander out into the world. Gosta Berling's bride is 
penniless; he found her in a snow-drift. We shall 
not live in lofty halls, but in a cottage at the edge 
of the wood. I shall help him to watch the kiln, I 
shall help him to set snares for partridges and hares, 
I shall cook his food and mend his clothes. Oh, my 
beloved, how I shall long and mourn, while I sit there 
alone by the edge of the wood and wait for you ! But 
not for the days of riches, only for you ; only you 
shall I look for and miss, — your footstep on the forest 
path, your joyous song, as you come with your axe 
on your shoulder. Oh, my beloved, my beloved ! As 
long as my life lasts, I could sit and wait for you." 

So she lay and sang hymns to the heart-conquering 
god, and never once had closed her eyes in sleep 
when the major's wife came in. 

When she had gone, Marianne got up and dressed 
herself. Once more must she put on the black velvet 



dress and the thin satin slippers. She wrapped a 
blanket about her like a shawl, and hurried out once 
again into the terrible night. 

Calm, starlit, and bitingly cold the February night 
lay over the earth ; it was as if it would never end. 
And the darkness and the cold of that long night 
lasted on the earth long, long after the sun had risen, 
long after the snow-drifts through which Marianne 
wandered had been changed to water. 

Marianne hurried away from Ekeby to get help. 
She could not let those men who had rescued her 
from the snow-drift and opened their hearts and home 
to her be hunted away. She went down to Sjo to 
Major Samzelius. It would be an hour before she 
could be back. 

When the major's wife had said farewell to her 
home, she went out into the yard, where her people 
were waiting, and the struggle began. 

She placed them round about the high, narrow 
house, the upper stofy of which was the pensioners' 
far-famed home, — the great room with the white- 
washed walls, the red-painted chests, and the great 
folding-table, where playing-cards swim in the spilled 
brandy, where the broad beds are hidden by yellow 
striped curtains where the pensioners sleep. 

And in the stable before full mangers the pension- 
ers' horses sleep and dream of the journeys of their 
youth. It is sweet to dream when they know that 
they never again shall leave the filled cribs, the warm 
stalls of Ekeby. 

In a musty old carriage-house, where all the 
broken-down coaches and worn-out sledges were 
stored, was a wonderful collection of old vehicles. 

Many are the pensioners who have lived and died 


at Ekeby. Their names are forgotten on the earth, 
and they have no longer a place in men's hearts; 
but the major's wife has kept the vehicles in which 
they came to Ekeby, she has collected them all in 
the old carriage-house. 

And there they stand and sleep, and dust falls thick, 
thick over them. 

But now in this February night the major's wife 
has the door opened to the carriage-house, and 
with lanterns and torches she seeks out the vehicles 
which belong to Ekeby's present pensioners, — Bee- 
rencreutz's old gig, and Orneclou's coach, painted 
with coat of arms, and the narrow cutter which had 
brought Cousin Christopher. 

She does not care if the vehicles are for summer or 
winter, she only sees that each one gets his own. 

And in the stable they are now awake, all the pen- 
sioners* old horses, who had so lately been dreaming 
before full mangers. The dream shall be true. 

You shall again try the steep hills, and the musty 
hay in the sheds of wayside inns, and drunken horse- 
dealers' sharp whips, and the mad races on ice so slip- 
pery that you tremble only to walk on it. 

The old beasts mouth and snort when the bit is 
put into their toothless jaws ; the old vehicles creak 
and crack. Pitiful infirmity, which should have been 
allowed to sleep in peace till the end of the world, 
was now dragged out before all eyes; stiff joints, halt- 
ing forelegs, spavin, and broken-wind are shown up. 

The stable grooms succeed, however, in getting the 
horses harnessed ; then they go and ask the major's 
wife in what Gosta Berling shall be put, for, as every 
one knows, he came to Ekeby in the coal-sledge of 
the major's wife. 


** Put Don Juan in our best sledge," she says, " and 
spread over it the bear-skin with the silver claws ! " 
And when the grooms grumble, she continues: 
" There is not a horse in my stable which I would 
not give to be rid of that man, remember that ! " 

Well, now the vehicles are waked and the horses 
too, but the pensioners still sleep. It is now their 
time to be brought out in the winter night ; but it is 
a more perilous deed to seize them in their beds than 
to lead out stiff-legged horses and shaky old carriages. 
They are bold, strong men, tried in a hundred adven- 
tures ; they are ready to defend themselves till death ; 
it is no easy thing to take them against their will from 
out their beds and down to the carriages which shall 
carry them away. 

The major's wife has them set fire to a hay-stack, 
which stands so near the house that the flames must 
shine in to where the pensioners are sleeping. 

" The hay-stack is mine, all Ekeby is mine," she 

And when the stack is in flames, she cries : " Wake 
them now ! " 

But the pensioners sleep behind well-closed doors. 
The whole mass of people begin to cry out that 
terrible ** Fire, fire ! " but the pensioners sleep on. 

The master-smith's heavy sledge-hammer thunders 
against the door, but the pensioners sleep. 

A hard snowball breaks the window-pane and flies 
into the room, rebounding against the bed-curtains, 
but the pensioners sleep. 

They dream that a lovely girl throws a handkerchief 
at them, they dream of applause from behind fallen 
curtains, they dream of gay laughter and the deafen- 
ing noise of midnight feasts. 


The noise of cannon at their ears, an ocean of ice- 
cold water were needed to awake them. 

They have bowed, danced, played, acted, and sung. 
They are heavy with wine, exhausted, and sleep a 
sleep as deep as death's. 

This blessed sleep almost saves them. 

The people begin to think that this quiet conceals 
a danger. What if it means that the pensioners are 
already out to get help ? What if it means that they 
stand awake, with finger on the trigger, on guard be- 
hind windows or door, ready to fall upon the first who 

These men are crafty, ready to fight; they must 
mean something by their silence. Who can think it 
of them, that they would let themselves be surprised 
in their lairs like bears? 

The people bawl their " Fire, fire ! " time after time, 
but nothing avails. 

Then when all are trembling, the major's wife her- 
self takes an axe and bursts open the outer door. 

Then she rushes alone up the stairs, throws open 
the door to the bachelors' wing, and calls into the 
room : " Fire ! " 

Hers is a voice which finds a better echo in the 
pensioners' ears than the people's outcry. Accus- 
tomed to obey that voice, twelve men at the same mo- 
ment spring from their beds, see the flames, throw on 
their clothes, and rush down the stairs out into the yard. 

But at the door stands the great master-smith and 
two stout mill-hands, and deep disgrace then befalls 
the pensioners. Each, as he comes down, is seized, 
thrown to the ground, and his feet bound; there- 
upon he is carried without ceremony to the vehicle 
prepared for him. 


None escaped ; they were all caught. Beerencreutz, 
the grim colonel, was bound and carried away; also 
Christian Bergh, the mighty captain, and Eberhard, 
the philosopher. 

Even the invincible, the terrible Gosta Berlmg was 
caught. The major's wife had succeeded. 

She was still greater than the pensioners. 

They are pitiful to see, as they sit with bound limbs 
in the mouldy old vehicles. There are hanging heads 
and angry glances, and the yard rings with oaths and 
wild bursts of powerless rage. 

The major's wife goes from one to the other. 

" You shall swear," she says, " never to come back 
to Ekeby." 

" Begone, hag ! " 

" You shall swear," she says, " otherwise I will throw 
you into the bachelors' wing, bound as you are, and 
you shall burn up in there, for to-night I am going to 
burn down the bachelors' wing." 

" You dare not do that." 

" Dare not ! Is not Ekeby mine ? Ah, you villain ! 
Do you think I do not remember how you spit at me 
on the highway? Did I not long to set fire here just 
now and let you all burn up ? Did you lift a finger to 
defend me when I was driven from my home? No, 
swear now ! " 

And she stands there so terrible, although she pre- 
tends perhaps to be more angry than she is, and so 
many men armed with axes stand about her, that 
they are obliged to swear, that no worse misfortune 
may happen. 

The major's wife has their clothes and boxes brought 
down and has their hand-fetters loosened; then the 
reins are laid in their hands. 


But much time has been consumed, and Marianne 
has reached Sjo. 

The major was no late-riser ; he was dressed when 
she came. She met him in the yard ; he had been out 
with his bears' breakfast 

He did not say anything when he heard her story. 
He only went in to the bears, put muzzles on them, 
led them out, and hurried away to Ekeby. 

Marianne followed him at a distance. She was 
dropping with fatigue, but then she saw a bright light 
of fire in the sky and was frightened nearly to death. 

What a night it was ! A man beats his wife and 
leaves his child to freeze to death outside his door. 
Did a woman now mean to burn up her enemies ; did 
the old major mean to let loose the bears on his own 

She conquered her weariness, hurried past the 
major, and ran madly up to Ekeby. 

She had a good start. When she reached the yard, 
she made her way through the crowd. When she 
stood in the middle of the ring, face to face with the 
major's wife, she cried as loud as she could, — 

"The major, the major is coming with the bears !" 

There was consternation among the people; all 
eyes turned to the major's wife. 

** You have gone for him," she said to Marianne. 

" Run ! " cried the latter, more earnestly. " Away, 
for God's sake ! I do not know what the major is 
thinking of, but he has the bears with him." 

All stood still and looked at the major's wife. 

" I thank you for your help, children," she said 
quietly to the people. " Everything which has hap- 
pened to-night has been so arranged that no one of 
you can be prosecuted by the law or get into trouble 


for it. Go home now ! I do not want to see any of 
my people murder or be murdered. Go now ! " 

Still the people waited. 

The major's wife turned to Marianne. 

" I know that you are in love," she said. " You 
act in love's madness. May the day never come 
when you must look on powerless at the ruin of 
your home ! May you always be mistress over your 
tongue and your hand when anger fills the soul ! " 

" Dear children, come now, come ! " she continued, 
turning to the people. " May God protect Ekeby ! 
I must go to my mother. Oh, Marianne, when you 
have got back your senses, when Ekeby is ravaged, 
and the land sighs in want, think on what you have 
done this night, and look after the people ! " 

Thereupon she went, followed by her people. 

When the major reached the yard, he found there 
no living thing but Marianne and a long line of 
horses with sledges and carriages, — a long dismal line, 
where the horses were not worse than the vehicles, 
nor the vehicles worse than their owners. Ill-used 
in the struggle of life were they all. 

Marianne went forward and freed them. 

She noticed how they bit their lips and looked 
away. They were ashamed as never before. A 
great disgrace had befallen them. 

** I was not better off when I lay on my knees on 
the steps at Bjorne a couple of hours ago," said 

And so, dear reader, what happened afterwards 
that night — how the old vehicles were put into the 
carriage-house, the horses in the stable, and the pen- 
sioners in their house — I shall not try to relate. The 
dawn began to appear over the eastern hills, and 


the day came clear and calm. How much quieter 
the bright, sunny days are than the dark nights, 
under whose protecting wings beasts of prey hunt 
and owls hoot! 

I will only say that when the pensioners had gone 
in again and had found a few drops in the last punch- 
bowl to fill their glasses, a sudden ecstasy came over 

" A toast for the major's wife ! " they cried. 

Ah, she is a matchless woman ! What better could 
they wish for than to serve her, to worship her? 

Was it not sad that the devil had got her in his 
power, and that all her endeavors were to send poor 
gentlemen's souls to hell? 



In the darkness of the forests dwell unholy creat- 
ures, whose jaws are armed with horrible, glittering 
teeth or sharp beaks, whose feet have pointed claws, 
which long to sink themselves in a blood-filled throat, 
and whose eyes shine with murderous desires. 

There the wolves live, who come out at night and 
hunt the peasant's sledge until the wife must take 
her little child, which sits upon her knee, and throw 
it to them, to save her own and her husband's life. 

There the lynx lives, which the people call " gopa,** 
for in the woods at least it is dangerous to call it by 
its right name. He who speaks of it during the day 
had best see that the doors and windows of the 
sheep-house are well closed towards night, for other- 
wise it will come. It climbs right up the walls, for 
its claws are strong as steel nails, glides in through 
the smallest hole, and throws itself on the sheep. 
And " gopa " hangs on their throats, and drinks their 
blood, and kills and tears, till every sheep is dead. 
He does not cease his wild death-dance among the 
terrified animals as long as any of them show a sign 
of life. 

And in the morning the peasant finds all the sheep 
lying dead with torn throats, for "gopa" leaves 
nothing living where he ravages. 





There the great owl lives, which hoots at dusk. If 
one mimics him, he comes whizzing down with out- 
spread wings and strikes out one's eyes, for he is no 
real bird, but an evil spirit 

And there lives the most terrible of them all, the 
bear, who has the strength of twelve men, and who, 
when he becomes a devil, can be killed only with a 
silver bullet. 

And if one should chance to meet him in the wood, 
big and high as a wandering cliff, one must not run, 
nor defend one's self; one must throw one's self down 
on the ground and pretend to be dead. Many small 
children have imagined themselves lying on the 
ground with the bear over them. He has rolled 
them over with his paw, and they have felt his hot 
breath on their faces, but they have lain quiet, until 
he has gone away to dig a hole to bury them in. 
Then they have softly raised themselves up and 
stolen away, slowly at first, then in mad haste. 

But think, think if the bear had not thought them 
really dead, but had taken a bite, or if he had been 
very hungry and wanted to eat them right up, or if 
he had seen them when they moved and had run 
after them. O God ! 

Terror is a witch. She sits in the dimness of the 
forest, sings magic songs to people, and fills their 
hearts with frightful thoughts. From her comes 
that deadly fear which weighs down life and darkens 
the beauty of smiling landscapes. Nature is malig- 
nant, treacherous as a sleeping snake ; one can be- 
lieve nothing. There lies Lofven's lake in brilliant 
beauty; but trust it not, it lures to destruction. 
Every year it must gather its tribute of the drowned. 
There lies the wood temptingly peaceful ; but trust it 



not ! The wood is full of unholy things, beset with 
evil spirits and bloodthirsty vagrants' souls. 

Trust not the brook with its gliding waters. It is 
sudden sickness and death to wade in it after sunset. 
Trust not the cuckoo, who sings so gayly in the 
spring. In the autumn he becomes a hawk with 
fierce eyes and terrible claws. Trust not the moss, 
nor the heather, nor the rock. Nature is evil, full of 
invisible powers, who hate man. There is no spot 
where you can set your foot in safety ; it is wonderful 
that your weak race can escape so much persecution. 

Terror is a witch. Does she still sit in the dark- 
ness of the woods of Varmland? Does she still 
darken the beauty of smiling places, does she still 
dampen the joy of living? Great her power has 
been. I know it well, who have put steel in the 
cradle and a red-hot coal in the bath ; I know it, who 
have felt her iron hand around my heart. 

But no one shall think that I now am going to 
relate anything terrible or dreadful. It is only an 
old story of the great bear in Gurlitta Cliff which I 
must tell; and any one can believe it or not, as it 
always is with hunting stories. 

The great bear has its home on the beautiful 
mountain summit which is called Gurlitta Cliff, and 
which raises itself precipitously from the shores of 
the Lofven. 

The roots of a fallen pine between which tufts of 
moss are hanging make the walls and roof of his 
dwelling, branches and twigs protect it, the snow 
makes it warm. He can lie there and sleep a good 
quiet sleep from summer to summer. 

Is he, then, a poet, a dreamer, this hairy monarch 


of the forest? Will he sleep away the cold winter's 
chill nights and colorless days to be waked by purling 
brooks and the song of birds ? Will he lie there and 
dream of blushing cranberry bogs, and of ant-hills 
filled with brown delicious creatures, and of the white 
lambs which graze on the green slopes? Does he 
want, happy one ! to escape the winter of life ? 

Outside the snow-storm rages; wolves and foxes 
wander about, mad with hunger. Why shall the 
bear alone sleep ? Let him get up and feel how the 
cold bites, how heavy it is to wade in deep snow. 

He has bedded himself in so well. He is like the 
sleeping princess in the fairy tale; and as she was 
waked by love, so will he be waked by the spring. 
By a ray of sunlight which penetrates through the 
twigs and warms his nose, by the drops of melting 
snow which wet his fur, will he be waked. Woe to 
him who untimely disturbs him ! 

He hears, suddenly, shouts, noise, and shots. He 
shakes the sleep out of his joints, and pushes aside the 
branches to see what it is. It is not spring, which 
rattles and roars outside his lair, nor the wind, which 
overthrows pine-trees and casts up the driving snow, 
but it is the pensioners, the pensioners from Ekeby, 
old acquaintances of the forest monarch. He re- 
membered well the night when Fuchs and Beeren- 
creutz sat and dozed in a Nygard peasant's barn, where 
they awaited a visit from him. They had just fallen 
asleep over their brandy-bottle, when he swung him- 
self in through the peat-roof; but they awoke, when 
he was trying to lift the cow he had killed out of the 
stall, and fell upon him with gun and knife. They 
took the cow from him and one of his eyes, but he 
saved his life. 


Yes, verily the pensioners and he are old acquaint- 
ances. He remembered how they had come on him 
another time, when he and his queen consort had 
just laid themselves down for their winter sleep in the 
old lair here on Gurlitta Cliff and had young ones in 
the hole. He remembered well how they came on 
them unawares. He got away all right, throwing to 
either side everything that stood in his path ; but he 
must limp for life from a bullet in his thigh, and 
when he came back at night to the royal lair, the 
snow was red with his queen consort's blood, and the 
royal children had been carried away to the plain, to 
grow up there and be man's servants and friends. 

Yes, now the ground trembles ; now the snow-drift 
which hides his lair shakes ; now he bursts out, the 
great bear, the pensioners' old enemy. Look out, 
Fuchs, old bear-killer; look out now, Beerencreutz ; 
look out, Gosta Berling, hero of a hundred ad- 
ventures ! 

Woe to all poets, all dreamers, all heroes of 
romance ! There stands Gosta Berling with finger on 
trigger, and the bear comes straight towards him. 
Why does he not shoot? What is he thinking of? 

Why does he not send a bullet straight into the 
broad breast? He stands in just the place to do it. 
The others are not placed right to shoot. Does he 
think he is on parade before the forest monarch ? 

Gosta of course stood and dreamed of the lovely 
Marianne, who is lying at Ekeby dangerously ill, from 
the chill of that night when she slept in the snow-drift. 

He thinks of her, who also is a sacrifice to the 
curse of hatred which overlies the earth, and he 
shudders at himself, who has come out to pursue and 
to kill. 


And there comes the great bear right towards him, 
blind in one eye from the blow of a pensioner's knife, 
lame in one leg from a bullet from a pensioner's gun, 
fierce and shaggy, alone, since they had killed his 
wife and carried away his children. And Gosta sees 
him as he is, — a poor, persecuted beast, whom he will 
not deprive of life, all he has left, since people have 
taken from him everything else. 

" Let him kill me," thinks Gosta, " but I will not 

And while the bear breaks his way towards him, he 
stands quite still as if on parade, and when the forest 
monarch stands directly in front of him, he presents 
arms and takes a step to one side. 

The bear continues on his way, knowing too well 
that he has no time to waste, breaks into the wood, 
ploughs his way through drifts the height of a man, 
rolls down the steep slopes, and escapes, while all of 
them, who had stood with cocked guns and waited for 
Gosta's shot, shoot off their guns after him. 

But it is of no avail ; the ring is broken, and the bear 
gone. Fuchs scolds, and Beerencreutz swears, but 
Gosta only laughs. 

How could they ask that any one so happy as he 
should harm one of God's creatures? 

The great bear of Gurlitta Cliff got away thus with 
his life, and he is waked from his winter sleep, as the 
peasants will find. No bear has greater skill than he 
to tear apart the roofs of their low, cellar-like cow- 
bams ; none can better avoid a concealed ambush. 

The people about the upper Lofven soon were at 
their wits' end about him. Message after message 
was sent down to the pensioners, that they should 
come and kill the bear. 


Day after day, night after night, during the whole of 
February, the pensioners scour the upper Lofven to 
find the bear, but he always escapes them. Has he 
learned cunning from the fox, and swiftness from the 
wolf? If they lie in wait at one place, he is ravaging 
the neighboring farmyard; if they seek him in the 
wood, he is pursuing the peasant, who comes driving 
over the ice. He has become the boldest of maraud- 
ers : he creeps into the garret and empties the house- 
wife's honey-jar; he kills the horse in the peasant's 

But gradually they begin to understand what kind 
of a bear he is and why Gosta could not shoot him. 
Terrible to say, dreadful to believe, this is no ordinary 
bear. No one can hope to kill him if he does not 
have a silver bullet in his gun. A bullet of silver and 
bell-metal cast on a Thursday evening at new moon 
in the church-tower without the priest or the sexton 
or anybody knowing it would certainly kill him, but 
such a one is not so easy to get. 

There is one man at Ekeby who, more than all the 
rest, would grieve over all this. It is, as one can 
easily guess, Anders Fuchs, the bear-killer. He loses 
both his appetite and his sleep in his anger at not be- 
ing able to kill the great bear in Gurlitta Cliff. At last 
even he understands that the bear can only be killed 
with a silver bullet. 

The grim Major Anders Fuchs was not handsome. 
He had a heavy, clumsy body, and a broad, red face, 
with hanging bags under his cheeks and several 
double chins. His small black moustache sat stiff as 
a brush above his thick lips, and his black hair stood 
out rough and thick from his head. Moreover, he was 


a man of few words and a glutton. He was not a 
person whom women meet with sunny smile and open 
arms, nor did he give them tender glances back again. 
One could not believe that he ever would see a 
woman whom he could tolerate, and everything 
which concerned love and enthusiasm was foreign to 

One Thursday evening, when the moon, just two 
fingers wide, lingers above the horizon an hour or two 
after the sun has gone down. Major Fuchs betakes 
himself from Ekeby without telling any one where he 
means to go. He has flint and steel and a bullet- 
mould in his hunting-bag, and his gun on his back, and 
goes up towards the church at Bro to see what luck 
there may be for an honest man. 

The church lies on the eastern shore of the narrow 
sound between the upper and lower Lofven, and 
Major Fuchs must go over a bridge to get there. He 
wends his way towards it, deep in his thoughts, with- 
out looking up towards Broby hi!!, where the houses 
cut sharply against the clear evening sky; he only 
looks on the ground, and wonders how he shall get 
hold of the key of the church without anybody's 
knowing it. 

When he comes down to the bridge, he hears some 
one screaming so despairingly that he has to look 

At that time the little German, Faber, was organist 
at Bro. He was a slender man, small in body and 
mind. And the sexton was Jan Larsson, an energetic 
peasant, but poor, for the Broby clergyman had 
cheated him out of his patrimony, five hundred rix- 

The sexton wanted to marry the organist's sister, 


the little, delicate maiden Faber, but the organist 
would not let him have her, and therefore the two 
were not good friends. That evening the sexton has 
met the organist as he crossed the bridge and has 
fallen upon him. He seizes him by the shoulder, and 
holding him at arm's length out over the railing tells 
him solemnly that he shall drop him into the sound 
if he does not give him the little maiden. The little 
German will not give in ; he struggles and screams, 
and reiterates " No," although far below him he 
sees the black water rushing between the white 

** No, no," he screams ; " no, no ! " 

And it is uncertain if the sexton in his rage would 
have let him down into the cold black water if 
Major Fuchs had not just then come over the bridge. 
The sexton is afraid, puts Faber down on solid ground, 
and runs away as fast as he can. 

Little Faber falls on the major's neck to thank him 
for his life, but the major pushes him away, and says 
that there is nothing to thank him for. The major 
has no love for Germans, ever since he had his 
quarters at Putbus on the Riigen during the Pome- 
ranian war. He had never so nearly starved to death 
as in those days. 

Then little Faber wants to run up to the bailiff 
Scharling and accuse the sexton of an attempt at 
murder, but the major lets him know that it is of no 
use here in the country, for it does not count for 
anything to kill a German. 

Little Faber grows calmer and asks the major to 
come home with him to eat a bit of sausage and to 
taste his home-brewed ale. 

The major follows him, for he thinks that the 


organist must haVe a key to the church-door ; and so 
they go up the hill, where the Bro church stands, 
with the vicarage, the sexton's cottage and the 
organist's house round about it 

" You must excuse us," says little Faber, as he and 
the major enter the house. " It is not really in order 
to-day. We have had a little to do, my sister and I. 
We have killed a cock." 

" The devil ! " cries the major. 

The little maid Faber has just come in with the ale 
in great earthen mugs. Now, every one knows that 
the major did not look upon women with a tender 
glance, but this little maiden he had to gaze upon 
with delight, as she came in so neat in lace and cap. 
Her light hair lay combed so smooth above her fore- 
head, the home-woven dress was so pretty and so 
dazzlingly clean, her little hands were so busy and 
eager, and her little face so rosy and round, that he 
could not help thinking that if he had seen such a 
little woman twenty-five years ago, he must have 
come forward and offered himself 

She is so pretty and rosy and nimble, but her eyes 
are quite red with weeping. It is that which suggests 
such tender thoughts. 

While the men eat and drink, she goes in and out 
of the room. Once she comes to her brother, cour- 
tesies, and says, — 

" How do you wish me to place the cows in the 

" Put twelve on the left and eleven on the right, 
then they can't gore one another." 

" Have you so many cows, Faber? " bursts out the 

The fact was that the organist had only two cows, 


but he called one eleven and the other twelve, that it 
might sound fine, when he spoke of them. 

And then the major hears that Faber's barn is 
being altered, so that the cows are out all day and 
at night are put into the woodshed. 

The little maiden comes again to her brother, 
courtesies to him, and says that the carpenter had 
asked how high the barn should be made. 

" Measure by the cows," says the organist, " meas- 
ure by the cows ! " 

Major Fuchs thinks that is such a good answer. 
However it comes to pass, the major asks the organist 
why his sister's eyes are so red, and learns that she 
weeps because he will not let her marry the penniless 
sexton, in debt and without inheritance as he is. 

Major Fuchs grows more and more thoughtful. 
He empties tankard after tankard, and eats sausage 
after sausage, without noticing it. Little Faber is 
appalled at such an appetite and thirst; but the more 
the major eats and drinks, the clearer and more de- 
termined his mind grows. The more decided becomes 
his resolution to do something for the little maiden 

He has kept his eyes fixed on the great key which 
hangs on a knob by the door, and as soon as little 
Faber, who has had to keep up with the major in 
drinking the home-brewed ale, lays his head on the 
table and snores, Major Fuchs has seized the key, 
put on his cap, and hurried away. 

A minute later he is groping his way up the tower 
stairs, lighted by his little horn lantern, and comes at 
last to the bell-room, where the bells open their wide 
throats over him. He scrapes off a little of the bell- 
metal with a file, and is just going to take the bullet- 


mould and melting-ladle out of his hunting-bag, when 
he finds that he has forgotten what is most important 
of all : he has no silver with him. If there shall be 
any power in the bullet, it must be cast there in the 
tower. Everything is right; it is Thursday evening 
and a new moon, and no one has any idea he is there, 
and now he cannot do anything. He sends forth 
into the silence of the night an oath with such a ring 
in it that the bells hum. 

Then he hears a slight noise down in the church 
and thinks he hears steps on the stairs. Yes, it is 
true, heavy steps are coming up the stairs. 

Major Fuchs, who stands there and swears so that 
the bells vibrate, is a little thoughtful at that. He 
wonders who it can be who is coming to help him 
with the bullet-casting. The steps come nearer and 
nearer. Whoever it is, is coming all the way up to 
the bell-room. 

The major creeps far in among the beams and 
rafters, and puts out his lantern. He is not exactly 
afraid, but the whole thing would be spoiled if any 
one should see him there. He has scarcely had time 
to hide before the new-comer's head appears above 
the floor. 

The major knows him well ; it is the miserly Broby 
minister. He, who is nearly mad with greed, has the 
habit of hiding his treasures in the strangest places. 
He comes now with a roll of bank-notes which he is 
going to hide in the tower-room. He does not know 
that any one sees him. He lifts up a board in the 
floor and puts in the money and takes himself off 

The major is not slow ; he lifts up the same board. 
Oh, so much money f Package after package of 


bank-notes, and among them brown leather bags, full 
of silver. The major takes just enough silver to make 
a bullet ; the rest he leaves. 

When he comes down to the earth again, he has 
the silver bullet in his gun. He wonders what luck 
has in store for him that night. It is marvellous on 
Thursday nights, as every one knows. He goes up 
towards the organist's house. Fancy if the bear 
knew that Faber's cows are in a miserable shed, no 
better than under the bare sky. 

What! surely he sees something black and big 
coming over the field towards the woodshed ; it must 
be the bear. He puts the gun to his cheek and is 
just going to shoot, but then he changes his mind. 

The little maid's red eyes come before him in the 
darkness; he thinks that he will help her and the 
sexton a little, but it is hard not to kill the great bear 
himself, He said afterwards that nothing in the world 
had ever been so hard, but as the little maiden was 
so dear and sweet, it had to be done. 

He goes up to the sexton's house, wakes him, drags 
him out, half dressed and half naked, and says that 
he shall shoot the bear which is creeping about out- 
side of Faber's woodshed. 

" If you shoot the bear, he will surely give you his 
sister," he says, " for then you will be a famous man. 
That is no ordinary bear, and the best men in the 
country would consider it an honor to kill it." 

And he puts into his hand his own gun, loaded with 
a bullet of silver and bell-metal cast in a church 
tower on a Thursday evening at the new moon, and 
he cannot help trembling with envy that another 
than he shall shoot the great forest monarch, the old 
bear of Gurlitta Cliff. 


The sexton aims, — God help us ! aims, as if he 
meant to hit the Great Bear, which high up in the sky 
wanders about the North Star, and not a bear wan- 
dering on the plain, — and the gun goes off with a 
bang which can be heard all the way to Gurlitta Cliff. 

But however he has aimed, the bear falls. So it is 
when one shoots with a silver bullet. One shoots 
the bear through the heart, even if one aims at the 

People come rushing out from all the neighboring 
farmyards and wonder what is going on, for never 
had a shot sounded so loud nor waked so many 
sleeping echoes as this one, and the sexton wins much 
praise, for the bear had been a real pest. 

Little Faber comes out too, but now is Major 
Fuchs sadly disappointed. There stands the sexton 
covered with glory, besides having saved Faber's cows, 
but the little organist is neither touched nor grateful. 
He does not open his arms to him and greet him as 
brother-in-law and hero. 

The major stands and frowns and stamps his foot in 
rage over such smallness. He wants to explain to 
the covetous, narrow-minded little fellow what a deed 
it is, but he begins to stammer, so that he cannot get 
out a word. And he gets angry and more angry at 
the thought that he has given up the glory of killing 
the great bear in vain. 

Oh, it is quite impossible for him to comprehend 
that he who had done such a deed should not be 
worthy to win the proudest of brides. 

The sexton and some of the young men are going 
to skin the bear; they go to the grindstone and 
sharpen the knives. Others go in and go to bed. 
Major Fuchs stands alone by the dead bear. 


Then he goes to the church once more, puts the 
key again in the lock, climbs up the narrow stairs and 
the twisted ladder, wakes the sleeping pigeons, and 
once more comes up to the tower-room. 

Afterwards, when the bear is skinned under the 
major's inspection, they find between his jaws a 
package of notes of five hundred rix-doUars. It is 
impossible to say how it came there, but of course it 
was a marvellous bear ; and as the sexton had killed 
him, the money is his, that is very plain. 

When it is made known, little Faber too under- 
stands what a glorious deed the sexton has done, and 
he declares that he would be proud to be his brother- 

On Friday evening Major Anders Fuchs returns to 
Ekeby, after having been at a feast, in honor of the 
lucky shot, at the sexton's and an engagement dinner 
at the organist's. He follows the road with a heavy 
heart ; he feels no joy that his enemy is dead, and 
no pleasure in the magnificent bear-skin which the 
sexton has given him. 

Many perhaps will believe that he is grieving that 
the sweet little maiden shall be another's. Oh no, 
that causes him no sorrow. But what goes to his very 
heart is that the old, one-eyed forest king is dead, 
and it was not he who shot the silver bullet at him. 

So he comes into the pensioners' wing, where the 
pensioners are sitting round the fire, and without a 
word throws the bear-skin down among them. Let 
no one think that he told about that expedition ; it 
was not until long, long after that any one could get 
out of him the truth of it. Nor did he betray the 
Broby clergyman's hiding-place, who perhaps never 
noticed the theft. 


The pensioners examine the skin. 

" It is a fine skin," says Beerencreutz. " I would 
like to know why this fellow has come out of his 
winter sleep, or perhaps you shot him in his hole? " 

" He was shot at Bro," 

" Yes, as big as the Gurlitta bear he never was," 
says Gosta, " but he has been a fine beast." 

" If he had had one eye," says Kevenhiiller, " I would 
have thought that you had killed the old one himself, 
he is so big; but this one has no wound or inflamma- 
tion about his eyes, so it cannot be the same." 

Fuchs swears over his stupidity, but then his face 
lights up so that he is really handsome. The great 
bear has not been killed by another man's bullet. 

" Lord God, how good thou art ! " he says, and 
folds his hands. 




We young people often had to wonder at the old 
people's tales. ** Was there a ball every day, as long 
as your radiant youth lasted?" we asked them. 
" Was life then one long adventure? " 

"Were all young women beautiful and lovely in 
those days, and did every feast end by Grosta Berling 
' carrying off one of them ? " 

Then the old people shook their worthy heads, and 
began to tell of the whirring of the spinning-wheel and 
the clatter of the loom, of work in the kitchen, of 
the thud of the flail and the path of the axe through 
the forest ; but it was not long before they harked 
back to the old theme. Then sledges drove up to 
the door, horses speeded away through the dark 
woods with the joyous young people ; then the dance 
whirled and the violin-strings snapped. Adventure's 
wild chase roared about Lofven's long lake with thun- 
der and crash. Far away could its noise be heard. 
The forest tottered and fell, all the powers of destruc- 
tion were let loose ; fire flamed out, floods laid 
waste the land, wild beasts roamed starving about the 
farmyards. Under the light-footed horses' hoofs all 
quiet happiness was trampled to dust. Wherever 
the hunt rushed by, men's hearts flamed up in mad- 
ness, and the women in pale terror had to flee from 
their homes. 


And we young ones sat wondering, silent, troubled, 
but blissful. " What people ! " we thought. " We 
shall never see their like." 

" Did the people of those days never think of what 
they were doing? " we asked. 

"Of course they thought, children," answered the 
old people. 

** But not as we think," we insisted. 

But the old people did not understand what we 

But we thought of the strange spirit of self-con- 
sciousness which had already taken possession of us. 
We thought of him, with his eyes of ice and his long, 
bent fingers, — he who sits there in the souFs darkest 
corner and picks to pieces our being, just as old 
women pick to pieces bits of silk and wool. 

Bit by bit had the long, hard, crooked fingers 
picked, until our whole self lay there like a pile of 
rags, and our best impulses, our most original 
thoughts, everything which we had done and said, 
had been examined, investigated, picked to pieces, 
and the icy eyes had looked on, and the toothless 
mouth had laughed in derision and whispered, — 

** See, it is rags, only rags." 

There was also one of the people of that time who 
had opened her soul to the spirit with the icy eyes. 
In one of them he sat, watching the causes of all 
actions, sneering at both evil and good, understand- 
ing everything, condemning nothing, examining, seek- 
ing out, picking to pieces, paralyzing the emotions of 
the heart and the power of the mind by sneering 

The beautiful Marianne bore the spirit of intro- 
spection within her. She felt his icy eyes and sneers 


follow every step, every word. Her life had become 
a drama where she was the only spectator. She had 
ceased to be a human being, she did not suffer, she 
was not glad, nor did she love ; she carried out the 
beautiful Marianne Sinclair's r61e, and self-conscious- 
ness sat with staring, icy eyes and busy, picking 
fingers, and watched her performance. 

She was divided into two halves. Pale, unsympa- 
thetic, and sneering, one half sat and watched what 
the other half was doing ; and the strange spirit who 
picked to pieces her being never had a word of feel- 
ing or sympathy. 

But where had he been, the pale watcher of the 
source of deeds, that night, when she had learned to 
know the fulness of life? Where was he when she, 
the sensible Marianne, kissed Gosta Berling before a 
hundred pairs of eyes, and when in a gust of passion 
she threw herself down in the snow-drift to die? 
Then the icy eyes were blinded, then the sneer was 
weakened, for passion had raged through her soul. 
The roar of adventure's wild hunt had thundered in 
her ears. She had been a whole person during that 
one terrible night. 

Oh, you god of self-mockery, when Marianne with 
infinite difficulty succeeded in lifting her stiffened 
arms and putting them about Gosta's neck, you too, 
like old Beerencreutz, had to turn away your eyes 
from the earth and look at the stars. 

That night you had no power. You were dead 
while she sang her love-song, dead while she hurried 
down to Sjo after the major, dead when she saw the 
flames redden the sky over the tops of the trees. 

For they had come, the mighty storm-birds, the 
griffins of demoniac passions. With wings of fire and 


claws of steel .they had come swooping down over 
you, you icy-eyed spirit; they had struck their claws 
into your neck and flung you far into the unknown. 
You have been dead and crushed. 

But now they had rushed on, — they whose course 
no sage can predict, no observer can follow; and 
out of the depths of the unknown had the strange 
spirit of self-consciousness again raised itself and had 
once again taken possession of Marianne's soul. 

During the whole of February Marianne lay ill at 
Ekeby. When she sought out the major at Sjo she 
had been infected with small-pox. The terrible ill- 
ness had taken a great hold on her, who had been so 
chilled and exhausted. Death had come very near 
to her, but at the end of the month she had recov- 
ered. She was still very weak and much disfig- 
ured. She would never again be called the beautiful 

This, however, was as yet only known to Marianne 
and her nurse. The pensioners themselves did not 
know it. The sick-room where small-pox raged was 
not open to any one. 

But when is the introspective power greater than 
during the long hours of convalescence? Then the 
fiend sits and stares and stares with his icy eyes, and 
picks and picks with his bony, hard fingers. And 
if one looks carefully, behind him sits a still paler 
creature, who stares and sneers, and behind him an- 
other and still another, sneering at one another and 
at the whole world. 

And while Marianne lay and looked at herself 
with all these staring icy eyes, all natural feelings 
died within her. 

She lay there and played she was ill ; she lay there 


and played she was unhappy, in love, longing for 

She was it all, and still it was only a play. Every- 
thing became a play and unreality under those icy 
eyes, which watched her while they were watched by a 
pair behind them, which were watched by other pairs 
in infinite perspective. 

All the energy of life had died within her. She 
had found strength for glowing hate and tender love 
for one single night, not more. 

She did not even know if she loved Gosta Berling. 
She longed to see him to know if he could take her 
out of herself. 

While under the dominion of her illness, she had 
had only one clear thought : she had worried lest her 
illness should be known. She did not wish to see 
her parents; she wished no reconciliation with her 
father, and she knew that he would repent if^he 
should know how ill she was. Therefore she ordered 
that her parents and every one else should only 
know that the troublesome irritation of the eyes, 
which she always had when she visited her native 
country, forced her to sit in a darkened room. She 
forbade her nurse to say how ill she was ; she forbade 
the pensioners to go after the doctor at Karlstad. 
She had of course small-pox, but only very lightly; 
in the medicine-chest at Ekeby there were remedies 
enough to save her life. 

She never thought of death; she only lay and 
waited for health, to be able to go to the clergyman 
with Gosta and have the banns published. 

But now the sickness and the fever were gone. 
She was once more cold and sensible. It seemed to 
her as if she alone was sensible in this world of fools. 


She neither hated nor loved. She understood her 
father; she understood them all. He wh Q>.ixnHf*r4- 
stands does not hate. I 

She had heard that Melchior Sinclair meant to 
have an auction at Bjorne and make way with all his 
wealth, that she might inherit nothing after him. 
People said that he would make the devastation as 
thorough as possible ; first he would sell the furniture 
and utensils, then the cattle and implements, and then 
the house itself with all its lands, and would put the 
money in a bag and sink it to the bottom of the 
Lofven. Dissipation, confusion, and devastation 
should be her inheritance. Marianne smiled approv- 
ingly when she heard it : such was his character, and 
so he must act. 

It seemed strange to her that she had sung that 
great hymn to love. She had dreamed of love 
in a cottage, as others have done. Now it seemed 
odc^to her that she had ever had a dream. 

She sighed for naturalness. She was tired of this 
continual play. She never had a strong emotion. 
She only grieved for her beauty, but she shuddered 
at the compassion of strangers. 

Oh, one second of forgetfulness of herself! One 
gesture, one word, one act which was not calculated ! 

One day, when the rooms had been disinfected and 
she lay dressed on a sofa, she had Gosta Berling 
called. They answered her that he had gone to the 
auction at Bjorne. 

At Bjorne there was in truth a big auction. It was 
an old, rich home. People had come long distances 
to be present at the sale. 

Melchior Sinclair had flung all the property in the 


house together in the great drawing-room. There 
lay thousands of articles, collected in piles, which 
reached from floor to ceiling. 

He had himself gone about the house like an angel 
of destruction on the day of judgment, and dragged 
together what he wanted to sell. Everything in the 
kitchen, — the black pots, the wooden chairs, the pew- 
ter dishes, the copper kettles, all were left in peace, 
for among them there was nothing which recalled 
Marianne; but they were the only things which 
escaped his anger. 

He burst into Marianne's room, turning everything 
out. Her doll-house stood there, and her book-case, 
the little chair he had had made for her, her trink- 
ets and clothes, her sofa and bed, everything must 


And then he went from room to room. He tore 

down everything he found unpleasant, and carried great 
loads down to the auction-room. He panted under 
the weight of sofas and marble slabs ; but he went on. 
He had thrown open the sideboards and taken out the 
magnificent family silver. Away with it ! Marianne 
had touched it He filled his arms with snow-white 
damask and with shining linen sheets with hem- 
stitching as wide as one's hand, — honest home-made 
work, the fruit of many years of labor, — and flung 
them down together on the piles. Away with them ! 
Marianne was not worthy to own them. He stormed 
through the rooms with piles of china, not caring if he 
broke the plates by the dozen, and he seized the hand- 
painted cups on which the family arms were burned. 
Away with them ! Let any one who will use them ! 
He staggered under mountains of bedding from the 
attic : bolsters and pillows so soft that one sunk down 


in them as in a wave. Away with them ! Marianne 
had slept on them. 

He cast fierce glances on the old, well-known furni- 
ture. Was there a chair where she had not sat, or 
a sofa which she had not used, or a picture which 
she had not looked at, a candlestick which had 
not lighted her, a mirror which had not reflected 
her features? Gloomily he shook his fist at this 
world of memories. He would have liked to have 
rushed on them with swinging club and to have 
crushed everything to small bits and splinters. 

But it seemed to him a more famous revenge to 
sell them all at auction. They should go to strangers ! 
Away to be soiled in the cottagers' huts, to be in the 
care of indifferent strangers. Did he not know them, 
the dented pieces of auction furniture in the peasants' 
houses, fallen into dishonor like his beautiful daughter? 
Away with them! May they stand with torn-out 
stuffing and worn-off" gilding, with cracked legs and 
stained leaves, and long for their former home! 
Away with them to the ends of the earth, so that no 
eye can find them, no hand gather them together ! 

When the auction began, he had filled half the hall 
with an incredible confusion of piled-up articles. 

Right across the room he had placed a long coun- 
ter. Behind it stood the auctioneer and put up the 
things ; there the clerks sat and kept the record, and 
there Melchior Sinclair had a keg of brandy stand- 
ing. In the other half of the room, in the hall, and 
in the yard were the buyers. There were many 
people, and much noise and gayety. The bids fol- 
lowed close on one another, and the auction was 
lively. But by the keg of brandy, with all his pos- 
sessions in endless confusion behind him, sat Melchior 



Sinclair, half drunk and half mad. His hair stood 
up in rough tufts above his red face ; his eyes were 
rolling, fierce, and bloodshot. He shouted and 
laughed, as if he had been in the best of moods; 
and every one who had made a good bid he called 
up to him and offered a dram. 

Among those who saw him there was Gosta Ber- 
ling, who had stolen in with the crowd of buyers, 
but who avoided coming under Melchior Sinclair's 
eyes. He became thoughtful at the sight, and his 
heart stood still, as at a presentiment of a misfortune. 

He wondered much where Marianne's mother could 
be during all this. And he went out, against his 
will, but driven by fate, to find Madame Gustava 

He had to go through many doors before he found 
her. Her husband had short patience and little 
fondness for wailing and women's complaints. He 
had wearied of seeing her tears flow over the fate 
which had befallen her household treasures. He 
was furious that she could weep over table and bed 
linen, when, what was worse, his beautiful daughter 
was lost ; and so he had hunted her, with clenched 
fists, before him, through the house, out into the 
kitchen, and all the way to the pantry. 

She could not go any farther, and he had rejoiced 
at seeing her there, cowering behind the step-ladder, 
awaiting heavy blows, perhaps death. He let her 
stay there, but he locked the door and stuffed the 
key in his pocket. She could sit there as long as 
the auction lasted. She did not need to starve, and 
his ears had rest from her laments. 

There she still sat, imprisoned in her own pantry, 
when Gosta came through the corridor between the 


kitchen and the dining-room. He saw her face at 
a little window high up in the wall. She had climbed 
up on the step-ladder, and stood staring out of her 

"What are you doing up there? " asked Gosta. 

" He has shut me in," she whispered. 

" Your husband ? " 

"Yes. I thought he was going to kill me. But 
listen, Gosta, take the key of the dining-room door, 
and go into the kitchen and unlock the pantry door 
with it, so that I can come out That key fits here." 

Gosta obeyed, and in a couple of minutes the 
little woman stood in the kitchen, which was quite 

" You should have let one of the maids open the 
door with the dining-room key," said Gosta. 

"Do you think I want to teach them that trick? 
Then I should never have any peace in the pantry. 
And, besides, I took this chance to put the upper 
shelves in order. They needed it, indeed. I cannot 
understand how I could have let so much rubbish 
collect there." 

" You have so much to attend to," said Gosta. 

" Yes, that you may believe. If I were not every- 
where, neither the loom nor the spinning-wheel would 
be going right. And if — " 

Here she stopped and wiped away a tear from the 
corner of her eye. 

" God help me, how I do talk ! " she said ; " they 
say that I won't have anything more to look after. 
He is selling everything we have." 

" Yes, it is a wretched business," said Gosta. 

" You know that big mirror in the drawing-room, 
Gosta. It was such a beauty, for the glass was whole 


in it, without a flaw, and there was no blemish at all 
on the gilding. I got it from my mother, and now 
he wants to sell it." 

•* He is mad." 

"You may well say so. He is not much better. 
He won't stop until we shall have to go and beg on 
the highway, we as well as the major's wife." 

" It will never be so bad as that," answered Gosta. 

"Yes, Gosta. When the major's wife went away 
from Ekeby, she foretold misfortune for us, and now 
it is coming. She would never have allowed him to 
sell Bjorne. And think, his own china, the old Can- 
ton cups from his own home, are to be sold. The 
major's wife would never have let it happen." 

"But what is the matter with him? " asked Gosta. 

" Oh, it is only because Marianne has not come 
back again. He has waited and waited. He has 
gone up and down the avenue the whole day and 
waited for her. He is longing himself mad, but I do 
not dare to say anything." 

" Marianne believes that he is angry with her." 

" She does not believe that. She knows him well 
enough ; but she is proud and will not take the first 
step. They are stiff and hard, both of them, and I 
have to stand between them." 

" You must know that Marianne is going to marry 

"Alas, Gosta, she will never do that. She says 
that only to make him angry. She is too spoiled to 
marry a poor man, and too proud, too. Go home 
and tell her that if she does not come home soon, 
all her inheritance will have gone to destruction. 
Oh, he will throw everything away, I know, without 
getting anything for it." 


Gosta was really angry with her. There she sat on 
a big kitchen table, and had no thought for anything 
but her mirrors and her china. 

" You ought to be ashamed ! " he burst out. " You 
throw your daughter out into a snow-drift, and then 
you think that it is only temper that she does not 
come back. And you think that she is no better 
than to forsake him whom she cares for, lest she 
should lose her inheritance." 

" Dear Gosta, don't be angry, you too. I don't 
know what I am saying. I tried my best to open the 
door for Marianne, but he took me and dragged me 
away. They all say here that I don't understand 
anything. I shall not grudge you Marianne, Gosta, if 
you can make her happy. It is not so easy to make 
a woman happy, Gosta." 

Gosta looked at her. How could he too have 
raised his voice in anger against such a person as she, 
— terrified and cowed, but with such a good heart ! 

" You do not ask how Marianne is," he said gently. 

She burst into tears. 

" Will you not be angry with me if I ask you? " she 
said. ** I have longed to ask you the whole time. 
Think that I know no more of her than that she is 
living. Not one greeting have I had from her the 
whole time, not once when I sent clothes to her, and 
so I thought that you and she did not want to have 
me know anything about her." 

Gosta could bear it no longer. He was wild, he 
was out of his head, — sometimes God had to send 
his wolves after him to force him to obedience, — but 
this old woman's tears, this old woman's laments were 
harder for him to bear than the howling of the wolve3 
He let her know the truth. 


" Marianne has been ill the whole time," he said. 
" She has had small-pox. She was to get up to-day 
and lie on the sofa. I have not seen her since the 
first night." 

Madame Gustava leaped with one bound to the 
ground. She left Gosta standing there, and rushed 
away without another word to her husband. 

The people in the auction-room saw her come up 
to him and eagerly whisper something in his ear. 
They saw how his face grew still more flushed, and his 
hand, which rested on the cock, turned it round so 
that the brandy streamed over the floor. 

It seemed to all as if Madame Gustava had come 
with such important news that the auction must end 
immediately. The auctioneer's hammer no longer 
fell, the clerks' pens stopped, there were no new bids. 

Melchior Sinclair roused himself from his thoughts. 

" Well," he cried, "what is the matter? " 

And the auction was in full swing once more. 

Gosta still sat in the kitchen, and Madame Gustava 
came weeping out to him. 

" It 's no use," she said. " I thought he would 
stop when he heard that Marianne had been ill ; but 
he is letting them go on. He would like to, but now 
he is ashamed." 

Gosta shrugged his shoulders and bade her fare- 

In the hall he met Sintram. 

" This is a funny show," exclaimed Sintram, and 
rubbed his hands. ** You are a master, Gosta. Lord, 
what you have brought to pass ! " 

" It will be funnier in a little while," whispered 
Gosta. " The Broby clergyman is here with a sledge 
full of money. They say that he wants to buy the 


whole of Bjorne and pay in cash. Then I would like 
to see Melchior Sinclair, Sintram." 
. Sintram drew his head down between his shoulders 
and laughed internally a long time. And then he 
made his way into the auction-room and up to Mel- 
chior Sinclair. 

" If you want a drink, Sintram, you must make a 
bid first." 

Sintram came close up to him. 

** You are in luck to-day as always," he said. " A 
fellow has come to the house with a sledge full of 
money. He is going to buy Bjorne and every-thing 
both inside and out. He has told a lot of people 
to bid for him. He does not want to show himself 
yet for a while." 

" You might say who he is ; then I suppose I must 
give you a drink for your pains." 

Sintram took the dram and moved a couple of 
steps backwards, before he answered, — 

" They say it is the Broby clergyman, Melchior." 

Melchior Sinclair had many better friends than the 
Broby clergyman. It had been a life-long feud be- 
tween them. There were legends of how he had lain 
in wait on dark nights on the roads where the minister 
should pass, and how he had given him many an 
honest drubbing, the old fawning oppressor of the 

It was well for Sintram that he had drawn back a 
step or two, but he did not entirely escape the big 
man's anger. He got a brandy glass between his 
eyes and the whole brandy keg on his feet. But then 
followed a scene which for a long time rejoiced his 

''Poes the Broby clergyman want my house?" 


roared Melchior Sinclair. ** Do you stand there and 
bid on my things for the Broby clergyman? Oh, you 
ought to be ashamed ! You ought to know better ! " 

He seized a candlestick, and an inkstand, and slung 
them into the crowd of people. 

All the bitterness of his poor heart at last found ex- 
pression. Roaring like a wild beast, he clenched his 
fist at those standing about, and slung at them what- 
ever missile he could lay his hand on. Brandy 
glasses and bottles flew across the room. He did not 
know what he was doing in his rage. 

" It 's the end of the auction," he cried. " Out with 
you ! Never while I live shall the Broby clergyman 
have Bjorne. Out ! I will teach you to bid for the 
Broby clergyman ! " 

He rushed on the auctioneer and the clerks. They 
hurried away. In the confusion they overturned the 
desk, and Sinclair with unspeakable fury burst into the 
crowd of peaceful people. 

There was a flight and wildest confusion. A couple 
of hundred people were crowding towards the door, 
fleeing before a single man. And he stood, roaring 
his ** Out with you ! " He sent curses after them, 
and now and again he swept about him with a chair, 
which he brandished like a club. 

He pursued them out into the hall, but no farther. 
When the last stranger had left the house, he went 
back into the drawing-room and bolted the door after 
him. Then he dragged together a mattress and a 
couple of pillows, laid himself down on them, went to 
sleep in the midst of all the havoc, and never woke till 
the next day. 

When Gosta got home, he heard that Marianne 
wished to speak to him. That was just what he wanted. 


He had been wondering how he could get a word with 

When he came into the dim room where she lay, 
he had to stand a moment at the door. He could not 
see where she was. 

" Stay where you are, Gosta," Marianne said to 
him. " It may be dangerous to come near me." 

But G5sta had come up the stairs in t\vo bounds, 
trembling with eagerness and longing. What did 
he care for the contagion? He wished to have the 
bliss of seeing her. 

For she was so beautiful, his beloved ! No one had 
such soft hair, such an open, radiant brow. Her whole 
face was a symphony of exquisite lines. 

He thought of her eyebrows, sharply and clearly 
drawn like the honey-markings on a lily, and of the 
bold curve of her nose, and of her lips, as softly 
turned as rolling waves, and of her cheek's long oval 
and her chin's perfect shape. 

And he thought of the rosy hue of her skin, of the 
magical effect of her coal-black eyebrows with her 
light hair, and of her blue irises swimming in clear 
white, and of the light in her eyes. 

She was beautiful, his beloved ! He thought of the 
warm heart which she hid under a proud exterior. She 
had strength for devotion and self-sacrifice concealed 
under that fine skin and her proud words. It was bliss 
to see her. 

He had rushed up the stairs in two bounds, and she 
thought that he would stop at the door. He stormed 
through the room and fell on his knees at the head 
of her bed. 

But he meant to see her, to kiss her, and to bid 
Jier farewell. 


He loved her. He would certainly never cease to 
love her, but his heart was used to being trampled on. 
Oh, where should he find her, that rose without 
support or roots, which he could take and call his 
own? He might not keep even her whom he had 
found disowned and half dead at the roadside. 

When should his love raise its voice in a song so 
loud and clear that he should hear no dissonance 
through it? When should his palace of happiness 
be built on a ground for which no other heart longed 
restlessly and with regret? 

He thought how he would bid her farewell. 

" There is great sorrow in your home," he would 
say. " My heart is torn at the thought of it You 
must go home and give your father his reason again. 
Your mother lives in continual danger of death. You 
must go home, my beloved." 

These were the words he had on his lips, but they 
were never spoken. 

He fell on his knees at the head of her bed, and he 
took her face between his hands and kissed her ; but 
then he could not speak. His heart began to beat 
so fiercely, as if it would burst his breast. 

Small-pox had passed over that lovely face. Her 
skin had become coarse and scarred. Never again 
should the red blood glow in her cheeks, or the fine 
blue veins show on her temples. Her eyebrows had 
fallen out, and the shining white of her eyes had 
changed to yellow. 

Everything was laid waste. The bold lines had 
become coarse and heavy. 

They were not few who mourned over Marianne 
Sinclair's lost beauty. In the whole of Varmland, 
people lamented the change in her bright color, har 


sparkling eyes, and blond hair. There beauty was 
prized as nowhere else. The joyous people grieved, 
as if the country had lost a precious stone from the 
crown of its honor, as if their life had received a blot 
on its glory. 

But the first man who saw her after she had lost 
her beauty did not indulge in sorrow. 

Unutterable emotion filled his soul. The more 
he looked at her, the warmer it grew within him. 
Love grew and grew, like a river in the spring. In 
waves of fire it welled up in his heart, it filled his 
whole being, it rose to his eyes as tears ; it sighed on 
his lips, trembled in his hands, in his whole body. 

Oh, to love her, to protect her, to keep her from 
all harm I 

To be her slave, her guide ! 

Love is strong when it has gone through the bap- 
tismal fire of pain. He could not speak to Marianne 
of parting and renunciation. He could not leave her 
— he owed her his life. He could commit the un- 
pardonable sin for her sake. 

He could not speak a coherent word, he only wept 
and kissed, until at last the old nurse thought it was 
time to lead him out. 

When he had gone, Marianne lay and thought ot 
him and his emotion. " It is good to be so loved," 
she thought. 

Yes, it was good to be loved, but how was it with 
herself? What did she feel? Oh, nothing, less than 
nothing ! 

Was it dead, her love, or where had it taken flight? 
Where had it hidden itself, her heart's child ? 

Did it still live? Had it crept into her heart's 
darkest corner and sat there freezing under the icy 


eyes, frightened by the pale sneer, half suffocated 
under the bony fingers? 

" Ah, my love," she sighed, " child of my heart ! 
Are you alive, or are you dead, dead as my 

The next day Melchior Sinclair went in early to 
his wife. 

" See to it that there is order in the house again, 
Gustava ! " he said. " I am going to bring Marianne 

" Yes, dear Melchior, here there will of course be 
order," she answered. 

Thereupon there was peace between them. 

An hour afterwards he was on his way to Ekeby. 

It was impossible to find a more noble and kindly 
old gentleman than Melchior Sinclair, as he sat in 
the open sledge in his best fur cloak and his best 
rug. His hair lay smooth on his head, but his face 
was pale and his eyes were sunken in their sockets. 

There was no limit to the brilliancy of the clear 
sky on that February day. The snow sparkled like 
a young girl's eyes when she hears the music of the 
first waltz. The birches stretched the fine lace-work 
of their reddish-brown twigs against the sky, and on 
some of them hung a fringe of little icicles. 

There was a splendor and a festive glow in the 
day. The horses prancing threw up their forelegs, 
and the coachman cracked his whip in sheer pleasure 
of living. 

After a short drive the sledge drew up before the 
great steps at Ekeby. 

The footman came out. 

" Where are your masters? " asked Melchior. 


" They are hunting the great bear in Gurlitta 

"All of them?" 

" All of them, sir. Those who do not go for the 
sake of the bear go for the sake of the luncheon." 

Melchior laughed so that it echoed through the 
silent yard. He gave the man a crown for his 

" Go say to my daughter that I am here to take 
her home. She need not be afraid of the cold. I 
have the big sledge and a wolfskin cloak to wrap 
her in." 

" Will you not come in, sir? " 

" Thank you ! I sit very well where I am." 

The man disappeared, and Melchior began his 

He was in such a genial mood that day that 
nothing could irritate him. He had expected to 
have to wait a little for Marianne; perhaps she was 
not even up. He would have to amuse himself by 
looking about him for a while. 

From the cornice hung a long icicle, with which 
the sun had terrible trouble. It began at the upper 
end, melted a drop, and wanted to have it run down 
along the icicle and fall to the earth. But before it 
had gone half the way, it had frozen again. And the 
sun made continual new attempts, which always failed. 
But at last a regular freebooter of a ray hung itself 
on the icicle's point, a little one, which shone and 
sparkled; and however it was, it accomplished its 
object, — a drop fell tinkling to the ground. 

Melchior looked on and laughed. " You were not 
such a fool," he said to the ray of sunlight. 

The yard was .quiet and deserted. Not a sound 


was heard in the big house.' But he was not impa- 
tient. He knew that women needed plenty of time 
to make themselves ready. 

He sat and looked at the dove-cote. The birds had 
a grating before the door. They were shut in, as 
long as the winter lasted, lest hawks should extermi- 
nate them. Time after time a pigeon came and stuck 
out its white head through the meshes. 

**She is waiting for the spring," said Melchior 
Sinclair, " but she must have patience for a while." 

The pigeon came so regularly that he took out his 
watch and followed her, with it in his hand. Exactly 
every third minute she stuck out her head. 

**No, my little friend," he said, "do you think 
spring will be ready in three minutes? You must 
learn to wait." 

And he had to wait himself; but he had plenty of 

The horses first pawed impatiently in the snow, but 
then they grew sleepy from standing and blinking in 
the sun. They laid their heads together and slept. 

The coachman sat straight on his box, with whip 
and reins in his hand and his face turned directly 
towards the sun, and slept, slept so that he snored. 

But Melchior did not sleep. He had never felt less 
like sleeping. He had seldom passed pleasanter 
hours than during this glad waiting. Marianne had 
been ill. She had not been able to come before, but 
now she would come. Oh, of course she would. 
And everything would be well again. 

She must understand that he was not angry with 
her. He had come himself with two horses and the 
big sledge. 

It is nothing to have to wait when one is sure of 


one's self, and when there is so much to distract one's 

There comes the great watch-dog. He creeps for- 
ward on the tips of his toes, keeps his eyes on the 
ground, and wags his tail gently, as if he meant to set 
out on the most indifferent errand. All at once he 
begins to burrow eagerly in the snow. The old 
rascal must have hidden there some stolen goods. 
But just as he lifts his head to see if he can eat it now 
undisturbed, he is quite out of countenance to see 
two magpies right in front of him. 

"You old thief!" say the magpies, and look like 
conscience itself. " We are police officers. Give up 
your stolen goods ! " 

" Oh, be quiet with your noise ! I am the stew- 
ard— " 

" Just the right one," they sneer. 

The dog throws himself on them, and they fly away 
with slow flaps. The dog rushes after them, jumps, 
and barks. But while he is chasing one, the other is 
already back. She flies down into the hole, tears at 
the piece of meat, but cannot lift it. The dog 
snatches away the meat, holds it between his paws, 
and bites in it. The magpies place themselves close 
in front of him, and make disagreeable remarks. He 
glares fiercely at them, while he eats, and when they 
get too impertinent, he jumps up and drives them 

The sun began to sink down towards the western 
hills. Melchior looked at his watch. It is three 
o'clock. And his wife, who had had dinner ready at 
twelve ! 

At the same moment the footman came out and 
announced that Miss Marianne wished to speak to him. 


Melchior laid the wolfskin cloak over his arm and 
went beaming up the steps. 

When Marianne heard his heavy tread on the stairs, 
she did not even then know if she should go home 
with him or not. She only knew that she must put 
an end to this long waiting. 

She had hoped that the pensioners would come 
home; but they did not come. So she had to do 
something to put an end to it all. She could bear it 
no longer. 

She had thought that he in a burst of anger would 
have driven away after he had waited five minutes, 
or that he would break the door in or try to set the 
house on fire. 

But there he sat calm and smiling, and only waited. 
She cherished neither hatred nor love for him. But 
there was a voice in her which seemed to warn her 
against putting herself in his power again, and 
moreover she wished to keep her promise to Gosta. 

If he had slept, if he had spoken, if he had been 
restless, if he had shown any sign of doubt, if he had 
had the carriage driven into the shade ! But he was 
only patience and certainty. 

Certain, so infectiously certain, that she would 
come if he only waited ! 

Her head ached. Every nerve quivered. She 
could get no rest as long as she knew that he sat 
there. It was as if his will dragged her bound 
down the stairs. 

So she thought she would at least talk with him. 

Before he came, she had all the curtains drawn up, 
and she placed herself so that her face came in the 
full light. 

For it was her intention to put him to a sort of 


test; but Melchior Sinclair was a wonderful man 
that day. 

When he saw her, he did not make a sign, nor did 
he exclaim. It was as if he had not seen any change 
in her. She knew how highly he prized her beauty. 
But he showed no sorrow. He controlled himself 
not to wound her. That touched her. She began 
to understand why her mother had loved him through 

He showed no hesitation. He came with neither 
reproaches nor excuses. 

" I will wrap the wolfskin about you, Marianne ; 
it is not cold. It has been on my knees the whole 

To make sure, he went up to the fire and warmed it. 

Then he helped her to raise herself from the sofa, 
wrapped the cloak about her, put a shawl over her 
head, drew it down under her arms, and knotted it 
behind her back. 

She let him do it. She was helpless. It was good 
to have everything arranged, it was good not to have 
to decide anything, especially good for one who was 
so picked to pieces as she, for one who did not pos- 
sess one thought or one feeling which was her own. 

Melchior lifted her up, carried her down to the 
sleigh, closed the top, tucked the furs in about her, 
and drove away from Ekeby. 

She shut her eyes and sighed, partly from pleas- 
ure, partly from regret. She was leaving life, the 
real life; but it did not make so much difference to 
her, — she who could not live but only act. 

A few days later her mother arranged that she 

should meet Gosta. She sent for him while her 



husband was off on his long walk to see after his 
timber, and took him in to Marianne. 

Gosta came in ; but he neither bowed nor spoke. 
He stood at the door and looked on the ground like 
an obstinate boy. 

" But, Gosta ! " cried Marianne. She sat in her arm- 
chair and looked at him half amused. 

" Yes, that is my name." 

" Come here, come to me, Gosta ! " 

He went slowly forward to her, but did not raise 
his eyes. 

** Come nearer ! Kneel down here ! " 

" Lord God, what is the use of all that?" he cried; 
but he obeyed. 

" Gosta, I want to tell you that I think it was best 
that I came home." 

" Let us hope that they will not throw you out in 
the snow-drift again." 

" Oh, Gosta, do you not care for me any longer? 
Do you think that I am too ugly? " 

He drew her head down and kissed her, but he 
looked as cold as ever. 

She was almost amused. If he was pleased to be 
jealous of her parents, what then ? It would pass. It 
amused her to try and win him back. She did not 
know why she wished to keep him, but she did. She 
thought that it was he who had succeeded for once 
in freeing her from herself. He was the only one 
who would be able to do it again. 

And now she began to speak, eager to win him 
back. She said that it had not been her meaning to 
desert him for good, but for a time they must for 
appearance's sake break off their connection. He 
must have seen, himself, that her father was on the 


verge of going mad, that her mother was in contin- 
ual danger of her life. He must understand that 
she had been forced to come home. 

Then his anger burst out in words. She need not 
give herself so much trouble. He would be her 
plaything no longer. She had given him up when 
she had gone home, and he could not love her any 
more. When he came home the day before yester- 
day from his hunting-trip and found her gone with- 
out a message, without a word, his blood ran cold in 
his veins, he had nearly died of grief. He could not 
love any one who had given him such pain. She had, 
besides, never loved him. She was a coquette, who 
wanted to have some one to kiss her and caress her 
when she was here in the country, that was all. 

Did he think that she was in the habit of allowing 
young men to caress her? 

Oh yes, he was sure of it. Women were not so 
saintly as they seemed. Selfishness and coquetry 
from beginning to end ! No, if she could know how 
he had felt when he came home from the hunt. It 
was as though he had waded in ice-water. He 
should never get over that pain. It would follow 
him through the whole of his life. He would never 
be the same person again. 

She tried to explain to him how it had all hap- 
pened. She tried to convince him that she was still 
faithful. Well, it did not matter, for now he did not 
love her any more. He had seen through her. She 
was selfish. She did not love him. She had gone 
without leaving him a message. 

He came continually back to that. She really 
enjoyed the performance. She could not be angry, 
she understood his wrath so well. She did not 


fear any real break between them. But at last she 
became uneasy. Had there really been such a change 
in him that he could no longer care for her? 

** Gosta," she said, " was I selfish when I went to 
Sjo after the major; I knew that they had small-pox 
there. Nor is it pleasant to go out in satin slippers 
in the cold and snow." 

** Love lives on love, and not on services and 
deeds," said Gosta. 

" You wish, then, that we shall be as strangers from 
now on, Gosta? " 

" That is what I wish." 

" You are very changeable, Gosta Berling." 

** People often charge me with it." 

He was cold, impossible to warm, and she was still 
colder. Self-consciousness sat and sneered at her 
attempt to act love. 

" Gosta," she said, making a last effort, " I have 
never intentionally wronged you, even if it may seem 
so. I beg of you, forgive me ! " 

** I cannot forgive you." 

She knew that if she had possessed a real feeling 
she could have won him back. And she tried to play 
the impassioned. The icy eyes sneered at her, but 
she tried nevertheless. She did not want to lose him. 

" Do not go, Gosta ! Do not go in anger ! Think 
how ugly I have become ! No one will ever love me 

** Nor I, either," he said. ** You must accustom 
yourself to see your heart trampled upon as well as 

" Gosta, I have never loved any one but you. For- 
give me. Do not forsake me! You are the only 
one who can save me from myself." 


He thrust her from him. 

"You do not speak the truth," he said with icy 
calmness. " I do not know what you want of me, but 
I see that you are lying. Why do you want to keep 
me? You are so rich that you will never lack suitors." 

And so he went. 

And not until he had closed the door, did regret 
and pain in all their strength take possession of 
Marianne's heart. 

It was love, her heart's own child, who came out 
of the corner where the cold eyes had banished him. 
He came, he for whom she had so longed when it 
was too late. 

When Marianne could with real certainty say to 
herself that Gosta Berling had forsaken her, she felt 
a purely physical pain so terrible that she almost 
fainted. She pressed her hands against her heart, 
and sat for hours in the same place, struggling with 
a tearless grief. 

And it was she herself who was suffering, not a 
stranger, nor an actress. It was she herself. Why 
had her father come and separated them? Her love 
had never been dead. It was only that in her weak 
condition after her illness she could not appreciate 
his power. 

O God, O God, that she had lost him ! O God, 
that she had waked so late ! 

Ah, he was the only one, he was her heart's con- 
queror ! From him she could bear anything. Hard- 
ness and angry words from him bent her only to 
humble love. If he had beaten her, she would have 
crept like a dog to him and kissed his hand. 

She did not know what she would do to get relief 
from this dull pain. 


She seized pen and paper and wrote with terrible 
eagerness. First she wrote of her love and regret. 
Then she begged, if not for his love, only for his pity. 
It was a kind of poem she wrote. 

When she had finished she thought that if he 
should see it he must believe that she had loved 
him. Well, why should she not send what she had 
written to him? She would send it the next day, 
and she was sure that it would bring him back to 

The next day she spent in agony and in struggling 
with herself. What she had written seemed to her 
paltry and so stupid. It had neither rhyme nor 
metre. It was only prose. He would only laugh at 
such verses. 

Her pride was roused too. If he no longer cared 
for her, it was such a terrible humiliation to beg for 
his love. 

Sometimes her good sense told her that she ought 
to be glad to escape from the connection with Gosta, 
and all the deplorable circumstances which it had 
brought with it. 

Her heart's pain was still so terrible that her 
emotions finally conquered. Three days after she 
had become conscious of her love, she enclosed the 
verses and wrote Gosta Berling's name on the cover. 
But they were never sent. Before she could find a 
suitable messenger she heard such things of Gosta 
Berling that she understood it was too late to win 
him back. 

But it was the sorrow of her life that she had not 
sent the verses in time, while she could have won 

All her pain fastened itself on that point: "If I 


only had not waited so long, if I had not waited so 
many days ! " 

The happiness of life, or at any rate the reality of 
life, would have been won to her through those written 
words. She was sure they would have brought him 
back to her. 

Grief, however, did her the same service as love. 
It made her a whole being, potent to devote herself 
to good as well as evil. Passionate feelings filled 
her soul, unrestrained by self-consciousness's icy 
chill. And she was, in spite of her plainness, much 

But they say that she never forgot Gosta Berling. 
Slie mourned for him as one mourns for a wasted 

And her poor verses, which at one time were much 
read, are forgotten long ago. I beg of you to read 
them and to think of them. Who knows what power 
they might have had, if they had been sent? They 
are impassioned enough to bear witness of a real 
feeling. Perhaps they could have brought him back 
to her. 

They are touching enough, tender enough in their 
awkward formlessness. No one can wish them differ- 
ent. No one can want to see them imprisoned in the 
chains of rhyme and metre, and yet it is so sad to 
think that it was perhaps just this imperfection which 
prevented her from sending them in time. 

I beg you to read them and to love them. It is a 
person in great trouble who has written them. 

^' Child, thou hast loved once, but nevermore 
Shalt thou taste of the joys of love ! 
A passionate storm has raged through thy soul 
Rejoice thou hast gone to thy rest I 


No more in wild joy shalt thou soar up on high 
Rejoice, thou hast gone to thy rest ! 
No more shalt thou sink in abysses of pain, 
Oh, nevermore. 

" Child, thou hast loved once, but nevermore 
Shall your soul burn and scorch in the flames. 
Thou wert as a field of brown, sun-dried grass 
Flaming with fire for a moment's space ; 
From the whirling smoke-clouds the fiery sparks 
Drove the birds of heaven with piercing cries. 
Let them return ! Thou burnest no more I — 
Wilt burn nevermore. 

" Child, thou hast loved, but now nevermore 

Shalt thou hear love's murmuring voice. 

Thy young heart's strength, like a weary child 

That sits still and tired on the hard school-bench. 

Yearns for freedom and pleasure. 

But no man calleth it more like a forgotten song ; 

No one sings it more, — nevermore. 

" Child, the end has now come ! 

And with it gone love and love's joy. 

He whom thou lovedst as if he had taught thee 

With wings to hover through space. 

He whom thou lovedst as if he had given thee 

Safety and home when the village was flooded. 

Is gone, who alone understood 

The key to the door of thy heart. 

" I ask but one thing of thee, O my beloved : 
' Lay not upon me the load of thy hate ! ' 
That weakest of all things, the poor human heart, 
How can it live with the pang and the thought 
That it gave pain to another? 

" O my beloved, if thou wilt kill me. 

Use neither dagger nor poison nor rope ! 

Say only you wish me to vanish 

From the green earth and the kingdom of life, 

And I shall sink to my grave. 


•• From thee came life of life ; thou gavest me love, 
And no\v thou recallest thy gift, I know it too well. 
But do not give me thy hate ! 
I still have love of living ! Oh, remember that ; 
But under a load of hate I have but to die." 




The young countess sleeps till ten o'clock in the 
morning, and wants fresh bread on the breakfast-table 
every day. The young countess embroiders, and 
reads poetry. She knows nothing of weaving and 
cooking. The young countess is spoiled. 

But the young countess is gay, and lets her joyous- 
ness shine on all and everything. One is so glad 
to forgive her the long morning sleep and the fresh 
bread, for she squanders kindness on the poor and 
is friendly to every one. 

The young countess's father is a Swedish noble- 
man, who has lived in Italy all his life, retained 
there by the loveliness of the land and by one of 
that lovely land's beautiful daughters. When Count 
Henrik Dohna travelled in Italy he had been re- 
ceived in this nobleman's house, made the acquaint- 
ance of his daughters, married one of them, and 
brought her with him to Sweden. 

She, who had always spoken Swedish and had 
been brought up to love everything Swedish, is 
happy in the land of the bear. She whirls so mer- 
rily in the long dance of pleasure, on Lofven's shores, 
that one could well believe she had always lived 
there. Little she understands what it means to be 
a countess. There is no state, no stiffness, no con- 
descending dignity in that young, joyous creature. 


It was the old men who liked the young countess 
best. It was wonderful, what a success she had with 
old men. When they had seen her at a ball, one 
could be sure that all of them, the judge at Munkerud 
and the clergyman at Bro and Melchior Sinclair and 
the captain at Berga, would tell their wives in the 
greatest confidence that if they had met the young 
countess thirty or forty years ago — 

** Yes, then she was not born," say the old ladies. 

And the next time they meet, they joke with the 
young countess, because she wins the old men's 
hearts from them. 

The old ladies look at her with a certain anxiety. 
They remember so well Countess Marta. She had 
been just as joyous and good and beloved when she 
first came to Borg. And she had become a vain and 
pleasure-seeking coquette, who never could think of 
anything but her amusements. " If she only had 
a husband who could keep her at work ! " say the 
old ladies. ** If she only could learn to weave ! " 
For weaving was a consolation for everything; it 
swallowed up all other interests, and had been the 
saving of many a woman. 

The young countess wants to be a good house- 
keeper. She knows nothing better than as a happy 
wife to live in a comfortable home, and she often 
comes at balls, and sits down beside the old 
people. ^ 

" Henrik wants me to learn to be a capable house- 
keeper," she says, " just as his mother is. Teach me 
how to weave ! " 

Then the old people heave a sigh : first, over Count 
Henrik, who can think that his mother was a good 
house-keeper; and then over the difficulty of initiat- 


ing this young, ignorant creature in such a compli- 
cated thing. It was enough to speak to her of 
heddles, and harnesses, and warps, and woofs,^ to 
make her head spin. 

No one who sees the young countess can help 
wondering why she married stupid Count Henrik. 
It is a pity for him who is stupid, wherever he 
may be. And it is the greatest pity for him who 
is stupid and lives in Varmland. 

There are already many stories of Count Henrik's 
stupidity, and he is only a little over twenty years 
old. They tell how he entertained Anna Stjarnhok 
on a sleighing party a few years ago. 

" You are very pretty, Anna," he said. 

" How you talk, Henrik ! " 

" You are the prettiest girl in the whole of Varm- 

** That I certainly am not." 

"The prettiest in this sleighing party at any 

" Alas, Henrik, I am not that either." 

" Well, you are the prettiest in this sledge, that 
you can't deny." 

No, that she could not. 

For Count Henrik is no beauty. He is as ugly 
as he is stupid. They say of him that that head 
on the top of his thin neck has descended in the 
family for a couple of hundred years. That is why 
the brain is so worn out in the last heir. 

** It is perfectly plain that he has no head of his 
own," they say. ** He has borrowed his father's. 
He does not dare to bend it ; he is afraid of losing it, 
— he is already yellow and wrinkled. The head has 

1 Terms used in weaving. 


been in use with both his father and grandfather. 
Why should the hair otherwise be so thin and the 
lips so bloodless and the chin so pointed ? " 

He always has scoffers about him, who encourage 
him to say stupid things, which they save up, circu- 
late, and add to. 

It is lucky for him that he does not notice it. He 
is solemn and dignified in everything he does. He 
moves formally, he holds himself straight, he never 
turns his head without turning his whole body. 

He had been at Munkerud on a visit to the judge 
a few years ago. 'He had come riding with high 
hat, yellow breeches, and polished boots, and had sat 
stiff and proud in the saddle. When he arrived 
everything went well, but when he was to ride away 
again it so happened that one of the low-hanging 
branches of a birch-tree knocked off his hat. He 
got off, put on his hat, and rode again under the 
same branch. His hat was again knocked off; this 
was repeated four times. 

The judge at last went out to him and said : " If 
you should ride on one side of the branch the next 

The fifth time he got safely by. 

But still the young countess cared for him in spite 
of his old-man's head. She of course did not know 
that he was crowned with such a halo of stupidity in 
his own country, when she saw him in Rome. There, 
there had been something of the glory of youth about 
him, and they had come together under such romantic 
circumstances. You ought to hear the countess tell 
how Count Henrik had to carry her off. The priests 
and the cardinals had been wild with rage that she 
wished to give up her mother's religion and become a 


Protestant. The whole people had been in uproar. 
Her father's palace was besieged. Henrik was 
pursued by bandits. Her mother and sisters implored 
her to give up the marriage. But her father was 
furious that that Italian rabble should prevent him 
from giving his daughter to whomsoever he might 
wish. He commanded Count Henrik to carry her off. 
And so, as it was impossible for them to be married 
at home without its being discovered, Henrik and she 
stole out by side streets and all sorts of dark alleys 
to the Swedish consulate. And when she had abjured 
the Catholic faith and become a Protestant, they were 
immediately married and sent north in a swift travel- 
ling-carriage. " There was no time for banns, you 
see. It was quite impossible," the young countess 
used to say. " And of course it was gloomy to be 
married at a consulate, and not in one of the beautiful 
churches, but if we had not Henrik would have had 
to do without me. Every one is so impetuous down 
there, both papa and mamma and the cardinals and 
the priests, all are so impetuous. That was why 
everything had to be done so secretly, and if the 
people had seen us steal out of the house, they would 
certainly have killed us both — only to save my soul ; 
Henrik was of course already lost." 

The young countess loves her husband, ever since 
they have come home to Borg and live a quieter life. 
She loves in him the glory of the old name and the 
famous ancestors. She likes to see how her presence 
softens the stiffness of his manner, and to hear how 
his voice grows tender when he speaks to her. And 
besides, he cares for her and spoils her, and she is 
married to him. The young countess cannot imagine 
that a married woman should not care for her husband. 


In a certain way he corresponds to her ideal of 
manliness. He is honest and loves the truth. He 
had never broken his word. She considers him a 
true nobleman. 

On the 1 8th of March Bailiff Scharling celebrates 
his birthday, and many then drive up Broby Hill. 
People from the east and the west, known and un- 
known, invited and uninvited, come to the bailiff's on 
that day. All are welcome, all find plenty of food 
and drink, and in the ballroom there is room for 
dancers from seven parishes. 

The young countess is coming too, as she always 
does where there is to be dancing and merry-making. 

But she is not happy as she comes. It is as if she 
has a presentiment that it is now her turn to be 
dragged-in in adventure's wild chase. 

On the way she sat and watched the sinking sun. 
It set in a cloudless sky and left no gold edges on the 
light clouds. A pale, gray, twilight, swept by cold 
squalls, settled down over the country. 

The young countess saw how day and night 
struggled, and how fear seized all living things at the 
mighty contest. The horses quickened their pace 
with the last load to come under shelter. The wood- 
cutters hurried home from the woods, the maids 
from the farmyard. Wild creatures howled at the 
edge of the wood. The day, beloved of man, was 

The light grew dim, the colors faded. She only 
saw chillness and ugliness. What she had hoped, 
what she had loved, what she had done, seemed to 
her to be also wrapped in the twilight's gray light. 
It was the hour of weariness, of depression, of impo- 
tence for her as for all nature. 


She thought that her own heart, which now in 
its playful gladness clothed existence with purple 
and gold, she thought that this heart perhaps 
sometime would lose its power to light up her 

" Oh, impotence, my own heart's impotence ! " she 
said to herself. " Goddess of the stifling, gray twi- 
light. You will one day be mistress of my soul. 
Then I shall see life ugly and gray, as it perhaps is, 
then my hair will grow white, my back be bent, my 
brain be paralyzed." 

At the same moment the sledge turned in at the 
bailiffs gate, and as the young countess looked up, 
her eyes fell on a grated window in the wing, and on a 
fierce, staring face behind. 

That face belonged to the major's wife at Ekeby, 
and the young woman knew that her pleasure for the 
evening was now spoiled. 

One can be glad when one does not see sorrow, 
only hears it spoken of. But it is harder to keep a 
joyous heart when one stands face to face with black, 
fierce, staring trouble. 

The countess knows of course that Bailiff Scharling 
had put the major's wife in prison, and that she shall 
be tried for the assault she made on Ekeby the night 
of the great ball. But she never thought that she 
should be kept in custody there at the bailiff's house, 
so near the ballroom that one could look into her 
room, so near that she must hear the dance music and 
the noise of merry-making. And the thought takes 
away all her pleasure. 

The young countess dances both waltz and quadrille. 
She takes part in both minuet and contra-dance ; but 
after each dance she steals to the window in the 



wing. There is a light there and she can see how the 
major's wife walks up and down in her room. She 
never seems to rest, but walks and walks. 

The countess takes no pleasure in the dance. She 
only thinks of the major's wife going backwards and 
.forwards in her prison like a caged wild beast. She 
wonders how all the others can dance. She is sure 
there are many there who are as much moved as she 
to know that the major's wife is so near, and still there 
is no one who shows it. 

But every time she has looked out her feet grow 
heavier in the dance, and the laugh sticks in her 

The bailiffs wife notices her as she wipes the 
moisture from the window-pane to see out, and 
comes to her. 

" Such misery ! Oh, it is such suffering ! " she 
whispers to the countess. 

" I think it is almost impossible to dance to-night," 
whispers the countess back again. 

" It is not with my consent that we dance here, 
while she is sitting shut up there," answers Madame 
Scharling. " She has been in Karlstad since she was 
arrested. But there is soon to be a trial now, and 
that is why she was brought here to-day. We could 
not put her in that miserable cell in the court-house, 
so she was allowed to stay in the weaving-room in 
the wing. She should have had my drawing-room, 
countess, if all these people had not come to-day. 
You hardly know her, but she has been like a mother 
and queen to us all. What will she think of us, who 
are dancing here, while she is in such great trouble. 
It is as well that most of them do not know that she 
is sitting there.' 



" She ought never to have been arrested," says the 
young countess, sternly. 

'* No, that is a true word, countess, but there was 
nothing else to do, if there should not be a worse mis- 
fortune. No one blamed her for setting fire to her 
own hay-stack and driving out the pensioners, but 
the major was scouring the country for her. God 
knows what he would have done if she had not been 
put in prison. Scharling has given much offence 
because he arrested the major's wife, countess. Even 
in Karlstad they were much displeased with him, 
because he did not shut his eyes to everything which 
happened at Ekeby ; but he did what he thought was 

" But now I suppose she will be sentenced ? " says 
the countess. 

" Oh, no, countess, she will not be sentenced. She 
will be acquitted, but all that she has to bear these 
days is being too much for her. She is going mad. 
You can understand, such a proud woman, how can 
she bear to be treated like a criminal I I think that 
it would have been best if she had been allowed to 
go free. She might have been able to escape by 

** Let her go," says the countess. 

" Any one can do that but the bailiff and his wife," 
whispers Madame Scharling. "We have to guard 
her. Especially to-night, when so many of her 
friends are here, two men sit on guard outside her 
door, and it is locked and barred so that no one can 
come in. But if any one got her out, countess, we 
should be so glad, both Scharling and I." 

"Can I not go to her?" says the young countess. 
Madame Scharling seizes her eagerly by the wrist 


and leads her out with her. In the hall they throw a 
couple of shawls about them, and hurry across the 

" It is not certain that she will even speak to us," 
says the bailiff's wife. "But she will see that we 
have not forgotten her." 

They come into the first room in the wing, where 
the two men sit and guard the barred door, and go 
in without being stopped to the major's wife. She 
was in a large room crowded with looms and other 
implements. It was used mostly for a weaving-room, 
but it had bars in the window and a strong lock on 
the door, so that it could be used, in case of need, for 
a cell. 

The major's wife continues to walk without paying 
any attention to them. 

She is on a long wandering these days. She can- 
not remember anything except that she is going the 
hundred and twenty miles to her mother, who is up 
in the Alfdal woods, and is waiting for her. She 
never has time to rest She must go. A never-resting 
haste is on her. Her mother is over ninety years 
old. She would soon be dead. 

She has measured off the floor by yards, and she 
is now adding up the yards to furlongs and the fur- 
longs to half-miles and miles. 

Her way seems heavy and long, but she dares not 
rest She wades through deep drifts. She hears the 
forests murmur over her as she goes. She rests in 
Finn huts and in the charcoal-burner's log cabin. 
Sometimes, when there is nobody for many miles, 
she has to break branches for a bed and rest under 
the roots of a fallen pine. 

And at last she has reached her journey's end, the 


hundred and twenty miles are over, the wood opens 
out, and the red house stands in a snow-covered 
yard. The Klar River rushes foaming by in a succes- 
sion of little waterfalls, and by that well-known sound 
she hears that she is at home. And her mother, who 
must have seen her coming begging, just as she had 
wished, comes to meet her. 

When the major's wife has got so far she always 
looks up, glances about her, sees the closed door, 
and knows where she is. 

Then she wonders if she is going mad, and sits 
down to think and to rest. But after a time she sets 
out again, calculates the yards and the furlongs, the 
half-miles and the miles, rests for a short time in 
Finn huts, and sleeps neither night nor day until she 
has again accomplished the hundred and twenty 

During all the time she has been in prison she has 
almost never slept. 

And the two women who had come to see her 
looked at her with anguish. 

The young countess will ever afterwards remember 
her, as she walked there. She sees her often in her 
dreams, and wakes with eyes full of tears and a moan 
on her lips. 

The old woman is so pitifully changed, her hair is 
so thin, and loose ends stick out from the narrow 
braid. Her face is relaxed and sunken, her dress is 
disordered and ragged. But with it all she has so 
much still of her lofty bearing that she inspires not 
only sympathy, but also respect. 

But what the countess remembered most distinctly 
were her eyes, sunken, turned inward, not yet deprived 
of all the light of reason, but almost ready to be ex- 


tinguished, and with a spark of wildness lurking in 
their depths, so that one had to shudder and fear to 
have the old woman in the next moment upon one, 
with teeth ready to bite, fingers to tear. 

They have been there quite a while when the 
major's wife suddenly stops before the young woman 
and looks at her with a stern glance. The countess 
takes a step backwards and seizes Madame Scharling's 

The features of the major's wife have life and ex- 
pression, her eyes look out into the world with full 

"Oh, no; oh, no,** she says and smiles ; "as yet it is 
not so bad, my dear young lady.** 

She asks them to sit down, and sits down herself. 
She has an air of old-time stateliness, known since days 
of feasting at Ekeby and at the royal balls at the 
governor's house at Karlstad. They forget the rags 
and the prison and only see the proudest and richest 
woman in Varmland. 

" My dear countess,*' she says, " what possessed you 
to leave the dance to visit a lonely old woman? You 
must be very good.'* 

Countess Elizabeth cannot answer. Her voice is 
choking with emotion. Madame Scharling answers 
for her, that she had not been able to dance for think- 
ing of the major's wife. 

"Dear Madame Scharling," answers the major's 
wife, " has it gone so far with me that I disturb the 
young people in their pleasure? You must not weep 
for me, my dear young countess," she continued. " I 
am a wicked old woman, who deserves all I get. You 
do not think it right to strike one's mother? *' 

"No, but — " 


The major's wife interrupts her and strokes the curly, 
light hair back from her forehead. 

" Child, child," she says, " how could you marry 
that stupid Henrik Dohna?" 

" But I love him." 

" I see how it is, I see how it is," says the major's 
wife. " A kind child and nothing more ; weeps with 
those in sorrow, and laughs with those who are glad. 
And obliged to say ' yes ' to the first man who says, 
*I love you.' Yes, of course. Go back now and 
dance, my dear young countess. Dance and be 
happy! There is nothing bad in you." 

'* But I want to do something for you." 

" Child," says the major's wife, solemnly, " an old 
woman lived at Ekeby who held the winds of heaven 
prisoners. Now she is caught and the winds are free. 
Is it strange that a storm goes over the land ? 

" I, who am old, have seen it before, countess. I 
know it. I know that the storm of the thundering 
God is coming. Sometimes it rushes over great king- 
doms, sometimes over small out-of-the-way communi- 
ties. God's storm forgets no one. It comes over the 
great as well as the small. It is grand to see God's 
storm coming. 

"Anguish shall spread itself over the land. The 
small birds' nests shall fall from the branches. The 
hawk's nest in the pine-tree's top shall be shaken down 
to the earth with a great noise, and' even the eagle's 
nest in the mountain cleft shall the wind drag out with 
its dragon tongue. 

" We thought that all was well with us ; but it was 
not so. God's storm is needed. I understand that, 
and I do not complain. I only wish that I might go 
to my mother." 


She suddenly sinks back. 

" Go now, young woman," she says. " I have no 
more time. I must go. Go now, and look out for 
them who ride on the storm-cloud ! " 

Thereupon she renews her wandering. Her features 
relax, her glance turns inward. The countess and 
Madame Scharling have to leave her. 

As soon as they are back again among the 
dancers the young countess goes straight to Gosta 

** I can greet you from the major's wife," she says. 
" She is waiting for you to get her out of prison." 

** Then she must go on waiting, countess." 

" Oh, help her, Herr Berling ! " 

Gosta stares gloomily before him. " No," he says, 
"why should I help her? What thanks do I owe 
her? Everything she has done for me has been to 
my ruin." 

"But Herr Berling — " 

" If she had not existed," he says angrily, " I would 
now be sleeping up there in the forest. Is it my duty 
to risk my life for her, because she has made me a 
pensioner at Ekeby? Do you think much credit goes 
with that profession ? " 

The young countess turns away from him without 
answering. She is angry. 

She goes back to her place thinking bitter thoughts 
of the pensioners. They have come to-night with 
horns and fiddles, and mean to let the bows scrape the 
strings until the horse-hair is worn through, without 
thinking that the merry tunes ring in the prisoner's 
miserable room. They come here to dance until their 
shoes fall to pieces, and do not remember that their 
old benefactress can see their shadows whirling 


by the misty window-panes. Alas, how gray and 
ugly the world was! Alas, what a shadow trouble 
and hardness had cast over the young countess's 
soul ! 

After a while Gosta comes to ask her to dance. 

She refuses shortly. 

"Will you not dance with me, countess?" he asks, 
and grows very red. 

** Neither with you nor with any other of the Ekeby 
pensioners," she says. 

" We are not worthy of such an honor." 

"It is no honor, Herr Berling. 3ut it gives me 
no pleasure to dance with those who forget the 
precepts of gratitude." 

Gosta has already turned on his heel. 

This scene is heard and seen by many. All think 
the countess is right. The pensioners' ingratitude 
and heartlessness had waked general indignation. 

But in these days Gosta Berling is more dangerous 
than a wild beast in the forest. Ever since he came 
home from the hunt and found Marianne gone, his 
heart has been like an aching wound. He longs to 
do some one a bloody wrong and to spread sorrow 
and pain far around. 

If she wishes it so, he says to himself, it shall be as 
she wishes. But she shall not save her own skin. 
The young countess likes abductions. She shall get 
her fill. He has nothing against adventure. For 
eight days he has mourned for a woman's sake. It 
is long enough. He calls Beerencreutz the colonel, 
and Christian Bergh the great captain, and the slow 
Cousin Christopher, who never hesitates at any mad 
adventure, and consults with them how he shall 
fivenge the pensioners* injured honor. 


It IS the end of the party. A long line of sledges 
drive up into the yard. The men are putting on 
their fur cloaks. The ladies look for their wraps in 
the dreadful confusion of the dressing-room. 

The young countess has been in great haste to 
leave this hateful ball. She is ready first of all the 
ladies. She stands smiling in the middle of the room 
and looks at the confusion, when the door is thrown 
open, and Gosta Berling shows himself on the 

No man has a right to enter this room. The old 
ladies stand there with their thin hair no longer 
adorned with becoming caps; and the young ones 
have turned up their skirts under their cloaks, that 
the stiff ruffles may not be crushed on the way home. 

But without paying any attention to the warning 
cries, Gosta Berling rushes up to the countess and 
seizes her. 

He lifts her in his arms and rushes from the room 
out into the hall and then on to the steps with 

The astonished women's screams could not check 
him. When they hurry after, they only see how he 
throws himself into a sledge with the countess in his 

They hear the driver crack his whip and see the 
horse set off. They know the driver : it is Beeren- 
creutz. They know the horse : it is Don Juan. And 
in deep distress over the countess's fate they call their 

And these waste no time in questions, but hasten 
to their sledges. And with the count at their head 
they chase after the ravisher. 

But he lies in the sledge, holding the young coun- 


tess fast. He has forgotten all grief, and mad with 
adventure's intoxicating joy, he sings at the top of 
his voice a song of love 'and roses. 

Close to him he presses her; but she makes no 
attempt to escape. Her face lies, white and stiffened, 
against his breast 

Ah, what shall a man do when he has a pale, help- 
less face so near his own, when he sees the fair hair 
which usually shades the white, gleaming forehead, 
pushed to one side, and when the eyelids have 
closed heavily over the gray eyes* roguish glance? 

What shall a man do when red lips grow pale 
beneath his eyes? 

Kiss, of course, kiss the fading lips, the closed eyes, 
the white forehead. 

But then the young woman awakes. She throws 
herself back. She is like a bent spring. And he 
has to struggle with her with his whole strength to 
keep her from throwing herself from the sledge, until 
finally he forces her, subdued and trembling, down 
in the corner of the sledge. 

"See," says Gosta quite calmly to Beerencreutz, 
"the countess is the third whom Don Juan and I 
have carried off this winter. But the others hung 
about my neck with kisses, and she will neither be 
kissed by me nor dance with me. Can you under- 
stand these women, Beerencreutz?" 

But when Gosta drove away from the house, when 
the women screamed and the men swore, when the 
sleigh-bells rang and the whips cracked, and there 
was nothing but cries and confusion, the men who 
guarded the major's wife were wondering. 

"What is going on?" they thought. "Why are 
they screaming?" 


Suddenly the door is thrown open, and a voice 
calls to them. 

" She is gone. He is driving away with her." 

They rush out, running like mad, without waiting 
to see if it was the major's wife or who it was who 
was gone. Luck was with them, and they came 
up with a hurrying sledge, and they drove both far 
and fast, before they discovered whom they were 

But Berg and Cousin Christopher went quietly to 
the door, burst the lock, and opened it for the major's 

" You are free," they said. 

She came out. They stood straight as ramrods 
on either side of the door and did not look at her. 

" You have a horse and sledge outside." 

She went out, placed herself in the sledge, and 
drove away. No one followed her. No one knew 
whither she went 

Down Broby hill Don Juan speeds towards the 
Lofven's ice-covered surface. The proud courser 
flies on. Strong, ice-cold breezes whistle by their 
cheeks. The bells jingle. The stars and the moon 
are shining. The snow lies blue-white and glitters 
from its own brightness. 

Gosta feels poetical thoughts wake in him. 

" Beerencreutz," he says, "this is life. Just as 
Don Juan hurries away with this young woman, so 
time hurries away with man. You are necessity, 
who steers the journey. I am desire, who fetters 
the will, and she is dragged helpless, always deeper 
and deeper down." 

** Don't talk ! " cries Beerencreutz. " They are 
coming after us." 


And with a whistling cut of the whip he urges Don 
Juan to still wilder speed. 

" Once it was wolves, now it is spoils," cries 
Gosta. " Don Juan, my boy, fancy that you are a 
young elk. Rush through the brushwood, wade 
through the swamps, leap from the mountain top 
down into the clear lake, swim across it with bravely 
lifted head, and vanish, vanish in the thick pine- 
woods' rescuing darkness! Spring, Don Juan! 
Spring like a young elk ! " 

Joy fills his wild heart at the mad race. The cries 
of the pursuers are to him a song of victory. Joy 
fills his wild heart when he feels the countess's body 
shake with fright, when he hears her teeth chatter. 

Suddenly he loosens the grip of iron with which 
he has held her. He stands up in the sledge and 
waves his cap. 

" I am Gosta Berling," he cries, " lord of ten 
thousand kisses and thirteen thousand love-letters! 
Hurra for Gosta Berling ! Take him who can ! " 

And in the next minute he whispers in the count- 

ess's ear : 

"Is not the pace good? Is not the course 
kingly? Beyond Lofven lies Lake Vaner. Beyond 
Vaner lies the sea, everywhere endless stretches of 
clear blue-black ice, and beyond all a glowing world. 
Rolling thunders in the freezing ice, shrill cries 
behind us, shooting stars above us, and jingling bells 
before us ! Forward ! Always forward I Have you 
a mind to try the journey, young, beautiful lady? " 

He had let her go. She pushes him roughly away. 
The next instant finds him on his knees at her feet. 

" I am a wretch, a wretch. You ought not to 
have angered me, countess. You stood there so 


proud and fair, and never thought that a pensioner's 
hand could reach you. Heaven and earth love you. 
You ought not to add to the burden of those whom 
heaven and earth scorn." 

He draws her hands to him and lifts them to his face. 

" If you only knew," he says, " what it means to be 
an outcast. One does not stop to think what one 
does. No, one does not." 

At the same moment he notices that she has noth- 
ing on her hands. He draws a pair of great fur 
gloves from his pocket and puts them on her. 

And he has become all at once quite quiet. He 
places himself in the sledge, as far from the young 
countess as possible. 

" You need not be afraid," he says. " Do you not 
see where we are driving? You must understand 
that we do not dare to do you any harm." 

She, who has been almost out of her mind with 
fright, sees that they have driven across the lake and 
that Don Juan is struggling up the steep hill to Borg. 

They stop the horse before the steps of the castle, 
and let the young countess get out of the sledge at 
the door of her own home. 

When she is surrounded by attentive servants, she 
regains her courage and presence of mind. 

** Take care of the horse, Andersson ! " she says to 
the coachman. " These gentlemen who have driven 
me home will be kind enough to come in for a while. 
The count will soon be here." 

" As you wish, countess," says Gosta, and instantly 
gets out of the sledge. Beerencreutz throws the 
reins to the groom without a moment's hesitation. 
And the young countess goes before them and ushers 
them into the hall with ill-concealed malicious joy. 


The countess had expected that the pensioners 
would hesitate at the proposition to await her 

They did not know perhaps what a stem and 
upright man he was. They were not afraid of the 
inquiry he should make of them, who had seized her 
by force and compelled her to drive with them. 
She longed to hear him forbid them ever again to 
set their foot in her house. 

She wished to see him call in the servants to point . 
out the pensioners to them as men who thereafter 
never should be admitted within the doors of Borg» 
She wished to hear him express his scorn not only of 
what they had done to her, but also of their conduct 
toward the old major's wife, their benefactress. 

He, who showed her only tenderness and considera* 
tion, would rise in just wrath against her perse- 
cutors. Love would give fire to his speech. He, 
who guarded and looked after her as a creature of 
finer stuff than any other, would not bear that rough 
men had fallen upon her like birds of prey upon a 
sparrow. She glowed with thirst of revenge. 

Beerencreutz, however, walked undaunted into the 
dining-room, and up to the fire, which was always 
lighted when the countess came home from a ball. 

Gosta remained in the darkness by the door and 
silently watched the countess, while the servant re- 
moved her outer wraps. As he sat and looked at 
the young woman, he rejoiced as he had not done 
for many years. He saw so clearly it was like a 
revelation, although he did not understand how he 
had discovered it, that she had in her one of the 
most beautiful of souls. 

As yet it lay bound and sleeping; but it would 


some day show itself. He rejoiced at having discov- 
ered all the purity and gentleness and innocence 
which was hidden in her. He was almost ready to 
laugh at her, because she looked so angry and stood 
with flushed cheeks and frowning brows. 

" You do not know how gentle and good you are," 
he thought. 

The side of her being which was turned towards 
the outside world would never do her inner person- 
ality justice, he thought. But Gosta Berling from 
that hour must be her servant, as one must serve 
everything beautiful and godlike. Yes, there was 
nothing to be sorry for that he had just been so 
violent with her. If she had not been so afraid, if 
she had not thrust him from her so angrily, if he had 
not felt how her whole being was shaken by his 
roughness, he would never have known what a fine 
and noble soul dwelt within her. 

He had not thought it before. She had only cared 
for pleasure-seeking and amusement. And she had 
married that stupid Count Henrik. 

Yes, now he would be her slave till death ; dog and 
slave as Captain Bergh used to say, and nothing 

He sat by the door, Gosta Berling, and held with 
clasped hands a sort of service. Since the day when 
he for the first time felt the flame of inspiration burn 
in him, he had not known such a holiness in his soul. 
He did not move, even when Count Dohna came in 
with a crowd of people, who swore and lamented over 
the pensioners' mad performance. 

He let Beerencreutz receive the storm. With indo- 
lent calm, tried by many adventures, the latter stood 
by the fireplace. He had put one foot up on the 


fender, rested his elbow on his knee, and his chin on 
his hand, and looked at the excited company. 

" What is the meaning of all this? " roared the lit- 
tle count at him. 

" The meaning is," he said, " that as long as there 
are women on earth, there will be fools to dance 
after their piping." 

The young count's face grew red. 

** I ask what that means ! " he repeated. 

**I ask that too," sneered Beerencreutz. "I ask 
what it means when Henrik Dohna's countess will 
not dance with Gosta Berling." 

The count turned questioning to his wife. 

" I could not, Henrik," she cried. " I could not 
dance with him or any of them. I thought of the 
major's wife, whom they allowed to languish in 

The little count straightened his stiff body and 
stretched up his old-man's head. 

** We pensioners," said Beerencreutz, " permit no 
one to insult us. She who will not dance with us 
must drive with us. No harm has come to the 
countess, and there can be an end of the matter." 

"No," said the count. "It cannot be the end. It 
is I who am responsible for my wife's acts. Now I 
ask why Gosta Berling did not turn to me to get 
satisfaction when my wife had insulted him." 

Beerencreutz smiled. 

" I ask that," repeated the count. 

" One does not ask leave of the fox to take his 
skin from him," said Beerencreutz. 

The count laid his hand on his narrow chest. 

" I am known to be a just man," he cried. " I car 
pass sentence on my servants. Why should I not b 


able to pass sentence on my wife? The pensioners 
have no right to judge her. The punishment they 
have given her, I wipe out It has never been, do 
you understand, gentlemen. It has never existed." 

The count screamed out the words in a high 
falsetto. Beerencreutz cast a swift glance about the 
assembly. There was not one of those present — 
Sintram and Daniel Bendix and Dahlberg and all the 
others who had followed in — who did not stand 
and smile at the way he outwitted stupid Henrik* 

The young countess did not understand at first 
What was it which should not be considered ? Her 
anguish, the pensioner's hard grip on her tender body, 
the wild song, the wild words, the wild kisses, did 
they not exist? Had that evening never been, over 
which the goddess of the gray twilight had reigned ? 

" But, Henrik — " 

" Silence ! " he said. And he drew himself up to 
chide her. "Woe to you, that you, who are a 
woman, have wished to set yourself up as a judge of 
men," he says. " Woe to you, that you, who are my 
wife, dare to insult one whose hand I gladly press. 
What is it to you if the pensioners have put the 
major's wife in prison? Were they not right? You 
can never know how angry a man is to the bottom of 
his soul when he hears of a woman's infidelity. Do 
you also mean to go that evil way, that you take 
such a woman's part?" 

"But, Henrik — " 

She wailed like a child, and stretched out her arms 
to ward off the angry 'words. She had never before 
heard such hard words addressed to her. She was 
so helpless among these hard men, and now her only 



defender turned against her. Never again would her 
heart have power to light up the world. 

" But, Henrik, it is you who ought to protect me." 

Gosta Berling was observant now, when it was too 
late. He did not know what to do. He wished her 
so well. But he did not dare to thrust himself 
between man and wife. 

"Where is Gosta Berling? " asked the count. 

" Here," said Gosta. And he made a pitiable 
attempt to make a jest of the matter. " You were 
making a speech, I think, count, and I fell asleep. 
What do you say to letting us go home and letting 
you all go to bed ? " 

" Gosta Berling, since my countess has refused to 
dance with you, I command her to kiss your hand 
and to ask you for forgiveness." 

" My dear Count Henrik," says Grosta, smiling, " it 
is not a fit hand for a young woman to kiss. Yester- 
day it was red with blood from killing an elk, to-day 
black with soot from a fight with a charcoal-burner. 
You have given a noble and high-minded sentence. 
That is satisfaction enough. Come, Beerencreutz ! " 

The count placed himself in his way. 

" Do not go," he said. ** My wife must obey me. 
I wish that my countess shall know whither it leads 
to be self-willed." 

Gosta stood helpless. The countess was quite 
white; but she did not move. 

" Go," said the count. 

" Henrik, I cannot." 

" You can," said the count, harshly. " You can. 
But I know what you want. You will force me to 
fight with this man, because your whim is not to like 
him. Well, if you will not make him amends, I shall 


do so. You women love to have a man killed for 
your sake. You have done wrong, but will not atone 
for it. Therefore I must do it. I shall fight the duel, 
countess. In a few hours I shall be a bloody corpse." 

She gave him a long look. And she saw him as 
he was, — stupid, cowardly, puffed up with pride and 
vanity, the most pitiful of men. 

" Be calm," she said. And she became as cold as 
ice. " I will do it." 

But now Gosta Berling became quite beside himself, 

"You shall not, countess! No, you shall not! 
You are only a child, a poor, innocent child, and you 
would kiss my hand. You have such a white, beauti- 
ful soul. I will never again come near you. Oh, 
never again ! I bring death and destruction to every- 
thing good and blameless. You shall not touch me. 
I shudder for you like fire for water. You shall not ! " 

He put his hands behind his back. 

" It is all the same to me, Herr Berling. Nothing 
makes any difference to me any more. I ask you for 
forgiveness. I ask you to let me kiss your hand ! " 

Gosta kept his hands behind his back. He ap- 
proached the door. 

" If you do not accept the amends my wife offers, 
I must fight with you, Gosta Berling, and moreover 
must impose upon her another, severer, punishment." 

The countess shrugged her shoulders. " He is 
mad from cowardice," she whispered. " Let me do 
it ! It does not matter if I am humbled. It is after 
all what you wanted the whole time." 

"Did I want that? Do you think I wanted that? 
Well, if I have no hands to kiss, you must see that I 
did not want it," he cried. 

He ran to the fire and stretched out his hands into 


it. The flames closed over them, the skin shrivelled 
up, the nails crackled. But in the same second Beeren- 
creutz seized him by the neck and threw him across 
the floor. He tripped against a chair and sat down. 
He sat and almost blushed for such a foolish perform- 
ance. Would she think that he only did it by way of 
boast? To do such a thing in the crowded room 
must seem like a foolish vaunt. There had not been 
a vestige of danger. 

Before he could raise himself, the countess was 
kneeling beside him. She seized his red, sooty hands 
and looked at them. 

" I will kiss them, kiss them," she cried, " as soon 
as they are not too painful and sore ! " And the tears 
streamed from her eyes as she saw the blisters rising 
under the scorched skin. 

For he had been like a revelation to her of an un- 
known glory. That such things could happen here 
on earth, that they could be done for her ! What a 
man this was, ready for everything, mighty in good as 
in evil, a man of great deeds, of strong words, of 
splendid actions ! A hero, a hero, made of different 
stuff from others ! Slave of a whim, of the desire of 
the moment, wild and terrible, but possessor of a tre- 
mendous power, fearless of everything. 

She had been so depressed the whole evening she 
had not seen anything but pain and cruelty and 
cowardice. Now everything was forgotten. The 
young countess was glad once more to be alive. The 
goddess of the twilight was conquered. The young 
countess saw light and color brighten the world. 

It was the same night in the pensioners' wing. 
There they scolded and swore at Gosta Berling. 


The old men wanted to sleep ; but it was impossible. 
He let them get no rest. It was in vain that they 
drew the bed-curtains and put out the light. He only 

He let them know what an angel the young coun- 
tess was, and how he adored her. He would serve 
her, worship her. He was glad that every one had 
forsaken him. He could devote his life to her service. 
She despised him of course. But he would be satis- 
fied to lie at her feet like a dog. 

Had they ever noticed an island out in the Lofven ? 
Had they seen it from the south side, where the 
rugged cliff rises precipitously from the water? Had 
they seen it from the north, where it sinks down to 
the sea in a gentle slope, and where the narrow shoals, 
covered with great pines wind out into the water, and 
make the most wonderful little lakes ? There on the 
steep cliff, where the ruins of an old viking fortress 
still remain, he would build a palace for the young 
countess, a palace of marble. Broad steps, at which 
boats decked with flags should land, should be hewn 
in the cliff down to the sea. There should be glow- 
ing halls and lofiy towers with gilded pinnacles. It 
should be a suitable dwelling for the young countess. 
That old wooden house at Borg was not worthy for 
her to enter. 

When he had gone on so for a while, first one 
snore and then another began to sound behind the 
yellow-striped curtains. But most of them swore and 
bewailed themselves over him and his foolishness. 

" Friends," he then says solemnly, " I see the green 
earth covered with the works of man or with the 
ruins of men's work. The pyramids weigh down the 
earth, the tower of Babel has bored through the sky, 


the beautiful temples and the gray castles have fallen 
into ruins. But of all which hands have built, what is 
it which has not fallen, nor shall fall? Ah, friends, 
throw away the trowel and the mortar ! Spread your 
mason's aprons over your heads and lay you down to 
build bright palaces of dreams ! What has the soul 
to do with temples of stone and clay? Learn to 
build everlasting palaces of dreams and visions ! *' 

Thereupon he went laughing to bed. 

When, shortly after, the countess heard that the 
major's wife had been set free, she gave a dinner for 
the pensioners. 

And then began hers and Gosta Berling's long 




Oh, children of the present day ! 

I have nothing new to tell you, only what is old 
and almost forgotten. I have legends from the 
nursery, where the little ones sat on low stools about 
the old nurse with her white hair, or from the log- 
fire in the cottage, where the laborers sat and 
chatted, while the steam reeked from their wet 
clothes, and they drew knives from leather sheaths 
at their necks to spread the butter on thick, soft 
bread, or from the hall where old men sat in their 
rocking-chairs, and, cheered by the steaming toddy, 
talked of old times. 

When a child, who had listened to the old nurse, 
to the laborers, to the old men, stood at the window 
on a winter's evening, it saw no clouds on the hori- 
zon without their being the pensioners; the stars 
were wax-candles, which were lighted at the old 
house at Borg; and the spinning-wheel which 
hummed in the next room was driven by old Ulrika 
Dillner. For the child's head was filled with the 
people of those old days; it lived for and adored 

But if such a child, whose whole soul was filled 
with stories, should be sent through the dark attic 
to the store-room for flax or biscuits, then the small 
feet scurried; then it came flying down the stairs, 


through the passage to the kitchen. For up there in 
the dark it could not help thinking of the wicked 
mill-owner at Fors, — of him who was in league with 
the devil. 

Sint ram 'sashes have been resting long in Svartsjo 
churchyard, but no one believes that his soul has 
been called to God, as it reads on his tombstone. 

While he was alive he was one of those to whose 
home, on long, rainy Sunday afternoons, a heavy 
coach, drawn by black horses, used to come. A 
gentleman richly but plainly dressed gets out of the 
carriage, and helps with cards and dice to while 
away the long hours which with their monotony have 
driven the master of the house to despair. The 
game is carried on far into the night ; and when the 
stranger departs at dawn he always leaves behind 
some baleful parting-gift. 

As long as Sintram was here on earth he was one 
of those whose coming is made known by spirits. 
They are heralded by visions. Their carriages roll 
into the yard, their whip cracks, their voices sound 
on the stairs, the door of the entry is opened and 
shut. The dogs and people are awakened by the 
noise, it is so loud; but there is no one who has 
come, it is only an hallucination which goes before 

Ugh, those horrible people, whom evil spirits seek 
out ! What kind of a big black dog was it which 
showed itself at Fors in Sintram 's time.? He had 
terrible, shining eyes, and a long tongue which 
dripped blood and hung far out of his panting throat. 
One day, when the men-servants had been in the 
kitchen and eaten their dinner, he had scratched at 
the kitchen door, and all the maids had screamed 





with fright; but the biggest and strongest of the 
men had taken a burning log from the fire, thrown 
open the door, and hurled it into the dog's gaping 

Then he had fled with terrible howls, flames and 
smoke had burst from his throat, sparks whirled 
about him, and his foot-prints on the path shone like 

And was it not dreadful that every time Sintram 
came home from a journey he had changed the ani- 
mals which drew him? He left with horses, but 
when he came home at night he had always black 
bulls before his carriage. The people who lived 
near the road saw their great black horns against 
the sky when he drove by, and heard the creatures* 
bellowing, and were terrified by the line of sparks 
which the hoofs and wheels drew out of the dry 

Yes, the little feet needed to hurry, indeed, to 
come across the big, dark attic. Think if some- 
thing awful, if he, whose name one may not say, 
should come out of a dark corner! Who can be 
sure.? It was not only to wicked people that he 
showed himself. Had not UlrikaDillner seen him.? 
Both she and Anna Stjamhok could say that they 
had seen him. 

Friends, 'children, you who dance, you who laugh ! 
I beg you so earnestly to dance carefully, laugh 
gently, for there can be so much unhappiness if your 
thin slippers tread on sensitive hearts instead of 
on hard boards ; arfd your glad, silvery laughter can 
drive a soul to despair. 

It was surely soj the young people's feet had 


trodden too hard on old Ulrika Dillner, and the 
young people's laughter had rung too arrogantly in 
her ears; for there came over her suddenly an 
irresistible longing for a married woman's titles 
and dignities. At last she said " yes " to the evil 
Sintram's long courtship, followed him to Fors as 
his wife, and was parted from the old friends at 
Berga, the dear old work, and the old cares for daily 

It was a match which went quickly and gayly. 
Sintram offered himself at Christmas, and in Feb- 
ruary they were married. That year Anna Stjarnhok 
was living in Captain Uggla's home. She was a 
good substitute for old Ulrika, and the latter could 
draw back without compunction, and take to herself 
married honors. 

Without compunction, but not without regret. It 
was not a pleasant place she had come to ; the big, 
empty rooms were filled with dreadful terrors. As 
soon as it was dark she began to tremble and to be 
afraid. She almost died of homesickness. 

The long Sunday afternoons were the hardest of 
all. They never came to an end, neither they nor 
the long succession of torturing thoughts which 
travelled through her brain. 

So it happened one day in March, when Sintram 
had not come home from church to dinner, that she 
went into the drawing-room, on the second floor, and 
placed herself at the piano. It was her last consola- 
tion. The old piano, with a flute-player and shep- 
herdess painted on the white cover, was her own, 
come to her from her parents' home. To it she 
could tell her troubles; it understood her. 

But is it not both pitiful and ridiculous? Do you 


know what she is playing? Only a polka, and she 
who is so heart-broken ! 

She does not know anything else. Before her 
fingers stiffened round broom and carving-knife she 
had learned this one polka. It sticks in her fingers ; 
but she does not know any other piece, — no funeral 
march, no impassioned sonata, not even a wailing 
ballad, — only the polka. 

She plays it whenever she has anything to confide 
to the old piano. She plays it both when she feels 
like weeping and like smiling. When she was mar- 
ried she played it, and when for the first time she 
had come to her own home, and also now. 

The old strings understand her : she is unhappy, 

A traveller passing by and hearing the polka ring 
could well believe that Sintram was having a ball 
for neighbors and friends, it sounds so gay. It is 
such a brave and glad melody. With it, in the old 
days, she has played carelessness in and hunger 
out at Berga; when they heard it every one must up 
and dance. It burst the fetters of rheumatism about 
the joints, and lured pensioners of eighty years on 
to the floor. The whole world would gladly dance 
to that polka, it sounds so gay — but old Ulrika 
weeps. Sintram has sulky, morose servants about 
him, and savage animals. She longs for friendly 
faces and smiling mouths. It is this despairing 
longing which the lively polka shall interpret. 

People find it hard to remember that she is 
Madame* Sintram. Everybody calls her Mamselle 
Dillner. She wants the polka tune to express her 
sorrow for the vanity which tempted her to seek for 
married honors. 


Old Ulrika plays as if she would break the strings. 
There is so much to drown : the lamentations of the 
poor peasants, the curses of over-worked cottagers, 
the sneers of insolent servants, and, first and last, 
the shame, — the shame of being the wife of a bad 

To those notes Gosta Berling has led young 
Countess Dohna to the dance. Marianne Sinclair 
and her many admirers have danced to them, and the 
major's wife at Ekeby has moved to their measure 
when Altringer was still alive. She can see them, 
couple after couple, in their youth and beauty, whirl 
by. There was a stream of gayety from them to her, 
from her to them. It was her polka which made 
their cheeks glow, their eyes shine. She is parted 
from all that now. Let the polka resound, — so 
many memories, so many tender memories to drown ! 

She plays to deaden her anguish. Her heart is 
ready to burst with terror when she sees the black 
dog, when she hears the servants whispering of the 
black bulls. She plays the polka over and over 
again to deaden her anguish. 

Then she perceives that her husband has come 
home. She hears that he comes into the room and 
sits down in the rocking-chair. She knows so well 
the sound as the rockers creak on the deal floor that 
she does not even look round. 

All the time she is playing the rocking con- 
tinues; she soon hears the music no longer, only 
the rocking. 

Poor old Ulrika, so tortured, so lonely, so help- 
less, astray in a hostile country, without a friend to 
complain to, without any consoler but a cracked 
piano, which answers her with a polka. 


It is like loud laughter at a funeral, a drinking 
song in a church. 

While the rocking-chair is still rocking she hears 
suddenly how the piano is laughing at her sorrows, 
and she stops in the middle of a bar. She rises and 
turns to the rocking-chair. 

But the next instant she is lying in a swoon on 
the floor. It was not her husband who sat in the 
rocking-chair, but another, — he to whom little chil- 
dren do not dare to give a name, he who would 
frighten them to death if they should meet him in 
the deserted attic. 

Can any one whose soul has been filled with 
legends ever free himself from their dominion } The 
night wind howls outside, the trees whip the pillars 
of the balcony with their stiff branches, the sky 
arches darkly over the far-stretching hills, and I, 
who sit alone in the night and write, with the lamp 
lighted and the curtain drawn, I, who am old and 
ought to be sensible, feel the same shudder creeping 
up my back as when I first heard this story, and I 
have to keep lifting my eyes from my work to be 
certain that no one has come in and hidden himself 
in that further corner; I have to look out on the 
balcony to see if there is not a black head looking 
over the railing. This fright never leaves me when 
the night is dark and solitude deep ; and it becomes 
at last so dreadful that I must throw aside my pen, 
creep down in my bed and draw the blanket up over 
my eyes. 

It was the great, secret wonder of my childhood 
that Ulrika Dillner survived that afternoon. I 
should never have done so. 


I hope, dear friends, that you may never see the 
tears of old eyes. And that you may not have to 
stand helpless when a gray head leans against your 
breast for support, or when old hands are clasped 
about yours in a silent prayer. May you never see 
the old sunk in a sorrow which you cannot comfort. 

What is the grief of the young? They have 
strength, they have hope. But what suffering it is 
when the old weep; what despair when they, who 
have always been the support of your young days, 
sink into helpless wailing. 

There sat Anna Stjarnhok and listened to old 
Ulrika, and she saw no way out for her. 

The old woman wept and trembled. Her eyes 
were wild. She talked and talked, sometimes quite 
incoherently, as if she did not know where she was. 
The thousand wrinkles which crossed her face were 
twice as deep as usual, the false curls, which hung 
down over her eyes, were straightened by her tears, 
and her whole long, thin body was shaken with 

At last Anna had to put an end to the wailings. 
She had made up her mind. She was going to take 
her back with her to Berga. Of course, she was 
Sintram's wife, but she could not remain at Fors. 
He would drive her mad if she stayed with him. 
Anna Stjarnhok had decided to take old Ulrika 

Ah, how the poor thing rejoiced, and yet trembled 
at this decision ! But she never would dare to leave 
her husband and her home. He would perhaps send 
the big black dog after her. 

But Anna Stjarnhok conquered her resistance, 
partly by jests, partly by threats, and in half an 


hour she had her beside her in the sledge. Anna 
was driving herself, and old Disa was in the shafts. 
The road was wretched, for it was late in March; 
but it did old Ulrika good to drive once more in the 
well-known sledge, behind the old horse who had 
been a faithful servant at Berga almost as long as she. 

As she had naturally a cheerful spirit, she stopped 
crying by the time they passed Arvidstorp ; at Hog- 
berg she was already laughing, and when they 
passed Munkeby she was telling how it used to be 
in her youth, when she lived with the countess at 

They drove up a steep and stony road in the lonely 
and deserted region north of Munkeby. The road 
sought out all the hills it possibly could find; it 
crept up to their tops by slow windings, rushed down 
them in a steep descent, hurried across the even 
valley to find a new hill to climb over. 

They were just driving down Vestratorp's hill, 
when old Ulrika stopped short in what she was 
saying, and seized Anna by the arm. She was star- 
ing at a big black dog at the roadside. 

" Look ! " she said. 

The dog set off into the wood. Anna did not see 
much of him. 

"Drive on," said Ulrika; "drive as fast as you 
can! Now Sintram will hear that I have gone." 

Anna tried to laugh at her terror, but she insisted. 

" We shall soon hear his sleigh-bells, you will see. 
We shall hear them before we reach the top of the 
next hill." 

And when Disa drew breath for a second at the 
top of Elofs hill sleigh-bells could be heard behind 


Old Ulrika became quite m^d with fright. She 
trembled, sobbed, and wailed as she had done in the 
drawing-room at Fors. Anna tried to urge Disa on, 
but she only turned her head and gave her a glance 
of unspeakable surprise. Did she think that Disa 
had forgotten when it was time to trot and when it 
was time to walk ? Did she want to teach her how 
to drag a sledge, to teach her who had known every 
stone, every bridge, every gate, every hill for more 
than twenty years t 

All this while the sleigh-bells were coming 

"It is he, it is he! I know his bells," wails old 

The sound comes ever nearer. Sometimes it 
seems so unnaturally loud that Anna turns to see if 
Sintram's horse has not got his head in her sledge; 
sometimes it dies away. They hear it now on the 
right, now on the left of the road, but they see no 
one. It is as if the jingling of the bells alone 
pursues them. 

Just as it is at night, on the way home from a 
party, is it also now. These bells ring out a tune ; 
they sing, speak, answer. The woods echo with 
their sound. 

Anna Stjarnhok almost wishes that their pursuer 
would come near enough for her to see Sintram him- 
self and his red horse. The dreadful sleigh-bells 
anger her. 

"Those bells torture me," she says. 

The word is taken up by the bells. "Torture 
me," they ring. "Torture me, torture, torture, tor- 
ture me," they sing to all possible tunes. 

It was not so long ago that she had driven this 


same way, hunted by wolves. She had seen their 
white teeth, in the darkness, gleam in their gaping 
mouths; she had thought that her body would soon 
be torn to pieces by the wild beasts of the forest; 
but then she had not been afraid. She had never 
lived through a more glorious night. Strong and 
beautiful had the horse been which drew her, strong 
and beautiful was the man who had shared the joy 
of the adventure with her. 

Ah, this old horse, this old, helpless, trembling 
companion. She feels so helpless that she longs to 
cry. She cannot escape from those terrible, irritat- 
ing bells. 

So she stops and gets out of the sledge. There 
must be an end to it all. Why should she run away 
as if she were afraid of that wicked, contemptible 
wretch } 

At last she sees a horse's head come out of the 
advancing twilight, and after the head a whole horse, 
a whole sledge, and in the sledge sits Sintram 

She notices, however, that it is not as if they had 
come along the road — this sledge, and this horse, 
and their driver — but more as if they had been 
created just there before her eyes, and had come for- 
ward out of the twilight as soon as they were made 

Anna threw the reins to Ulrika and went to meet 

He stops the horse. 

"Well, well," he says; "what a piece of luck! 
Dear Miss Stjarnhok, let me move my companion 
over to your sledge. He is going to Berga to-night, 
and I am in a hurry to get home." 




" Where is your companion ? " 

Sintram lifts his blanket, and shows Anna a man 
who is lying asleep on the bottom of the sledge. 
"He is a little drunk," he says; "but what does 
that matter? He will sleep. It *s an old acquaint- 
ance, moreover; it is Gosta Berling." 

Anna shudders. 

"Well, I will tell you," continues Sintram, "that 
she who forsakes the man she loves sells him to the 
devil. That was the way I got into his claws. 
People think they do so well, of course; to renounce 
is good, and to love is evil." 

"What do you mean? What are you talking 
about ? " asks Anna, quite disturbed. 

"I mean that you should not have let Gosta 
Berling go from you, Miss Anna." 

"It was God* swill." 

"Yes, yes, that's the way it is; to renounce is 
good, and to love is evil. The good God does not 
like to see people happy. He sends wolves after 
them. But if it was not God who did it, Miss 
Anna? Could it not just as well have been I who 
called my little gray lambs from the Dovre moun- 
tains to hunt the young man and the young girl? 
Think, if it was I who sent the wolves, because I 
did not wish to lose one of my own ! Think, if it 
was not God who did it ! " 

"You must not tempt me to doubt that," says 
Anna, in a weak voice, "for then I am lost." 

"Look here," says Sintram, and bends down over 
the sleeping Gosta Berling; "look at his little 
finger. That little sore never heals. We took the 
blood there when he signed the contract. He is 
mine. There is a peculiar power in blood. He 


is mine, and it is only love which can free him; 
but if I am allowed to keep him he will be a fine 

Anna Stjamhok struggles and struggles to shake 
off the fascination which has seized her. It is all 
madness, madness. No one can swear away his soul 
to the odious tempter. But she has no power over 
her thoughts; the twilight lies so heavy over her, 
the woods stand so dark and silent. She cannot 
escape the dreadful terror of the moment. 

"You think, perhaps,*' continues Sintram, "that 
there is not much left in him to ruin. But don't 

think that ! Has he ground down the peasants, has 
he deceived poor friends, has he cheated at cards.? 
Has he. Miss Anna, has he been a married woman's 

" I think you are the devil himself ! " 

"Let us exchange. You take Gosta Berling, take 
him and marry him. Keep him, and give them at 
Berga the money. I yield him up to you, and you 
know that he is mine. Think that it was not God 
who sent the wolves after you the other night, and 
let us exchange!" 

" What do you want as compensation } " 

Sintram grinned. 

"I — what do I want ? Oh, I am satisfied with 
little. I only want that old woman there in your 
sledge. Miss Anna." 

"Satan, tempter," cries Anna, "leave me! Shall 
I betray an old friend who relies on me.? Shall I 
leave her to you, that you may torture her to 
madness ? " 

" There, there, there ; quietly, Miss Anna ! Think 
what you are doing ! Here is a fine young man, and 


there an old, worn-out woman. One of them I must 
have. Which of them will you let me keep ? " 

Anna Stjarnhok laughed wildly. 

"Do you think that we can stand here and ex- 
change souls as they exchange horses at the market 
at Broby.?" 

"Just so, yes. But if you will, we shall put it 
on another basis. We shall think of the honor of 
the Stjarnhoks." 

Thereupon he begins to call in a loud voice to his 
wife, who is sitting in Anna's sledge; and, to the 
girl's unspeakable horror, she obeys the summons 
instantly, gets out of the sledge, and comes, trem- 
bling and shaking, to them. 

"See, see, see! — such an obedient wife,'* says 
Sintram. "You cannot prevent her coming when 
her husband calls. Now, I shall lift Gosta out of 
my sledge and leave him here, — leave him for good^ 
Miss Anna. Whoever may want to can pick him 

He bends down to lift Gosta up; but Anna leans 
forward, fixes him with her eyes, and hisses like an 
angry animal: — 

"In God's name, go home! Do you not know 
who is sitting in the rocking-chair in the drawing- 
room and waiting for you t Do you dare to let him 
wait > " 

It was for Anna almost the climax of the horrors 
of the day to see how these words affect him. He 
drags on the reins, turns, and drives homewards, 
urging the horse to a gallop with blows and wild 
cries down the dreadful hill, while a long line of 
sparks crackle under the runners and hoofs in the 
thin March snow. 


Anna Stjarahok and Ulrika Dillner stand alone 
in the road, but they do not say a word. Ulrika 
trembles before Anna's wild eyes, and Anna has 
nothing to say to the poor old thing, for whose sake 
she has sacrificed her beloved. 

She would have liked to weep, to rave, to roll on 
the ground and strew snow and sand on her head. 

Before, she had known the sweetness of renuncia- 
tion, now she knew its bitterness. What was it to 
sacrifice her love compared to sacrificing her beloved's 
soul } They drove on to Berga in the same silence ; 
but when they arrived, and the hall-door was opened, 
Anna Stjarnhok fainted for the first and only time 
in her life. There sat both Sintram and Gosta 
Berling, and chatted quietly. The tray with toddy 
had been brought in ; they had been there at least 
an hour. 

Anna Stjarnhok fainted, but old Ulrika stood 
calm. She . had noticed that everything was not 
right with him who had followed them on the road. 

Afterwards the captain and his wife arranged the 
matter so with Sintram that old Ulrika was allowed 
to stay at Berga. He agreed good-naturedly. 

"He did not want to drive her mad," he said. 

I do not ask any one to believe these old stories. 
They cannot be anything but lies and fiction. But 
the anguish which passes over the heart, until it 
wails as the floor boards in Sintram *s room wailed 
under the swaying rockers ; but the questions which 
ring in the ears, as the sleigh-bells rang for Anna 
Stjarnhok in the lonely forest, — when will they be 
as lies and fiction } 

Oh, that they could be ! 




The beautiful point on Lofven's eastern shore, about 
which the bay glides with lapping waves, the proud 
point where the manor of Borg lies, beware of 

Lofven never looks more glorious than from its 

No one can know how lovely it is, the lake of my 
dreams, until he has seen from Borg's point the 
morning mist glide away from its smooth surface; 
until he, from the windows of the little blue cabinet, 
where so many memories dwell, has seen it reflect a 
pink sunset. 

But I still say, go not thither ! 

For perhaps you will be seized with a desire to 
remain in that old manor's sorrowful halls; perhaps 
you will make yourself the owner of those fair lands ; 
and if you are young, rich, and happy, you will make 
your home there with a young wife. 

No, it is better never to see the beautiful point, 
for at Borg no one can live and be happy. No 
matter how rich, how happy you may be, who move 
in there, those old tear-drenched floors would soon 
drink four tears as well, and those walls, which could 
give back so many moans, would also glean j^our 


An implacable fate is on this lovely spot. It is 
as if niisfortune were buried there, but found no rest 
in its grave, and perpetually rose from it to terrify 
the living. If I were lord of Borg I would search 
through the ground, both in the park and under the 
cellar floor in the house, and in the fertile mould 
out in the meadows, until I had found the witch's 
worm-eaten corpse, and then I would give her a 
grave in consecrated earth in the Svartsjo church- 
yard. And at the burial I would not spare on the 
ringer's pay, but let the bells sound long and loud 
over her; and to the clergyman and sexton I should 
send rich gifts, that they with redoubled strength 
might with speech and song consecrate her to ever- 
lasting rest. 

Or, if that did not help, some stormy night I 
would set fire to the wooden walls, and let it destroy 
everything, so that no one more might be tempted 
to live in the home of misfortune. Afterwards no 
one should be allowed to approach that doomed 
spot; only the church-tower's black jackdaws should 
build in the great chimney, which, blackened a^ld 
dreadful, would raise itself over the deserted founda- 

Still, I should certainly mourn when I saw the 
flames close over the roof, when thick smoke, red- 
dened by the fire and flecked with sparks, should roll 
out from the old manor-house. In the crackling 
and the roaring I should fancy I heard the wails of 
homeless memories ; on the blue points of the flames 
I should see disturbed spirits floating. I should 
think how sorrow beautifies, how misfortune adorns, 
and weep as if a temple to the old gods had been 
condemned to destructioa 


But why croak of unhappiness? As yet Borg lies 
and shines on its point, shaded by its park of nughty 
i>:nes, and the snow-covered fields glitter in Ma-ch's 
burning sun; as yet is heard within those walls the 
young Countess Elizabeth's gay laughter. 

Ever}' Sunday she goes to church at Svartsjo, 
which lies near Borg, and gathers together a few 
friends for dinner. The judge and his family from 
M;:nkorud used to come, and the Ugglas from 
l^crcA. And oven Sintram. If Gosta Berling hap- 
peiis to bo in Svartsjo, wandering over Lofven's ice, 
jihc inviics him too. Why should she not invite 
i;<.v:a Borling.? 

^ho probably does not know that the gossips are 
K^inning to whisper that Gosta comes very often 
over to the east shore to see her. Perhaps he also 
comes to drink and play cards with Sintram ; but no 
one thinks so much of that ; every one knows that 
his body is of steel ; but it is another matter with 
his heart. No one believes that he can see a pair 
(if shining eyes, and fair hair which curls about a 
wliite brow, \vithout love. 

The young countess is good to him. But there 
is nothing strange in that; she is good to all. She 
takes ragged beggar children on her knee, and when 
she drives by some poor old creature on the high- 
road she has the coachman stop, and takes the poor, 
wanderer up into her sledge. 

Gosta used to sit in the little blue cabinet, where 
there is such a glorious view over the lake, and read 
poetry to her. There can be no harm in that. He 
does not forget that she is a countess, and }ie a home- 
less adventurer; and it is good for him to be with 
some one whom he holds high and holy. He could 


just as well be in love with the Queen of Sheba as 
with her. 

He only asks to be allowed to wait on her as a 
page waits on his noble mistress: to fasten her 
skates, to hold her skeins, to steer her sled. There 
cannot be any question of love between them ; he is 
just the man to find his happiness in a romantic, 
innocent adoration. 

The young count is silent and serious, and Gosta 
is playfully gay. He is just such a companion as 
the young ^^ountess likes. No one who sees her 
fancies that she is hiding a forbidden love. She 
thinks of dancing, — of dancing and merrymaking.^ 
She would like the earth to be quite flat, without 
stones, without hills or seas, so that she could dance 
everywhere. From the cradle to the grave she would 
like to dance in her small, thin-soled, satin slippers. 

But rumor is not very merciful to young women. 

When the guests come to dinner at Borg, the men 
generally, after the meal, go into the count's room 
to sleep and smoke; the old ladies sink down in the 
easy-chairs in the drawing-room, and lean their 
venerable heads against the high backs; but the 
countess and Anna Stjarhhok go into the blue cab- 
inet and exchange endless confidences. 

The Sunday after the one when Anna Stjamhok 
took Ulrika Dillner back to Berga they are sitting 
there again. 

No one on earth is so unhappy as the young girl. 
All her gayety is departed, and gone is the glad 
defiance which she showed to everything and every- 
body who wished to come too near her. 

Everything which had happened to her that day 
has sunk back into the twilight from which it was 


charmed ; she has only one distinct impression left, 
— yes, one, which is poisoning her soul. 

"If it really was not God who did it," she used 
to whisper to herself. " If it was not God, who sent 
the wolves ? " 

She asks for a sign, she longs for a miracle. She 
searches heaven and earth. But she sees no finger 
stretched from the sky to point out her way. 

As she sits now opposite the countess in the blue 
cabinet, her eyes fall on a little bundi of hepaticas 
which the countess holds in her white hand. Like 
a bolt it strikes her that she knows where the flowers 
have grown, that she knows who has picked t^em. 

She does not need to ask. Where else in- the 
whole countryside do hepaticas bloom in the begin- 
ning of April, except in the birch grove which lies 
on the slopes of Ekeby "i 

She stares and stares at the little blue stars ; those 
happy ones who possess all hearts; those little 
prophets who, beautiful in themselves, are also 
glorified by the splendor of all the beauty which 
they herald, of all the beauty which is coming. And 
as she watches them a storm of wrath rises in her 
soul, rumbling like the thunder, deadening like the 
lightning. "By what right," she thinks, "does 
Countess Dohna hold this bunch of hepaticas, picked 
by the shore at Ekeby t " 

They were all tempters: Sintram, the countess, 
everybody wanted to allure Gosta Berling to what 
was evil. But she would protect him; against all 
would she protect him. Even if it should cost her 
heart's blood, she would do it. 

She thinks that she must see those flowers torn 
out of the countess's hand, and thrown aside, 


trampled, crushed, before she leaves the little blue 

She thinks that, and she begins a struggle with 
the little blue stars. Out in the drawing-room the 
old ladies lean their venerable heads against the 
chair-backs and suspect nothing; the men smoke 
their pipes in calm and quiet in the count's room; 
peace is everywhere; only in the little blue cabinet 
rages a terrible struggle. 

Ah, how well they do who keep their hands from 
the sword, who understand how to wait quietly, to 
lay their hearts to rest and let God direct! The 
restless heart always goes astray. Ill-will makes the 
pain worse. 

But Anna Stjarnhok believes that at last she has 
seen a finger in the sky. 

"Anna," says the countess, "tell me a story!" 

"About what.?'' 

"Oh," says the countess, and caresses the flowers 
with her white hand. " Do not you know something 
about love, something about loving? " 

" No, I know nothing of love. " 

" How you talk ! Is there not a place here which 
is called Ekeby, — a place full of pensioners } " 

"Yes," says Anna, "there is a place which is 
called Ekeby, and there are men there who suck the 
marrow of the land, who make us incapable of seri- 
ous work, who ruin growing youth, and lead astray 
our geniuses. Do you want to hear of them ? Do 
you want to hear love-stories of them 1 " 

" Yes. I like the pensioners. " 

So Anna Stjarnhok speaks, — speaks in short 
sentences, like an old hymn-book, for she is nearly 
choking with stormy emotions. Suppressed suffer- 


ing trembles in each word, and the countess was 
both frightened and interested to hear her. 

" What is a pensioner's love, what is a pensioner's 
faith? — one sweetheart to-day, another to-morrow, 
one in the east, another in the west. Nothing is 
too high for him, nothing too low; one day a count's 
daughter, the next day a beggar girl. Nothing on 
earth is so capacious as his heart. But alas, alas 
for her who loves a pensioner. She must seek him 
out where he lies drunk at the wayside. She must 
silently look on while he at the card-table plays 
away the home of her childhood. She must bear to 
have him hang about other women. Oh, Elizabeth, 
if a pensioner asks an honorable woman for a dance 
she ought to refuse it to him; if he gives her a 
bunch of flowers she ought to throw the flowers on 
the ground and trample on them ; if she loves him 
she ought rather to die than to marry him. There 
was one among the pensioners who was a dismissed 
priest; he had lost his vestments for drunkenness. 
He was drunk in the church. He drank up the 
communion wine. Have you ever heard of him.^" 

" No. " 

" After he had been dismissed he wandered about 
the country as a beggar. He drank like a madman. 
He would steal to get brandy. " 

"What is his name.? " 

"He is no longer at Ekeby. The major's wife 
got hold of him, gave him clothes, and persuaded 
your mother-in-law. Countess Dohna, to make him 
tutor to your husband, young Count Henrik." 

"A dismissed priest! " 

"Oh, he was a young, powerful man, of good 
intelligence. There was no barm in him, if be caily 



did not drink. Countess Marta was not particular. 
It amused her to quarrel with the neighboring clergy- 
men. Still, she ordered him to say nothing of his 
past life to her children. For then her son would 
have lost respect for him, and her daughter would 
not have endured him, for she was a saint. 

" So he came here to Borg. He always sat just 
inside the door, on the very edge of his chair, never 
said a word at the table, and fled out into the park 
when any visitors came. 

"But there in the lonely walks he used to meet 
young Ebba Dohna. She was not one who loved 
the noisy feasts which resoundied in the halls at 
Borg after the countess became a widow. She was 
so gentle, so shy. She was still, although she was 
seventeen, nothing but a tender child; but she 
was very lovely, with her brown eyes, and the faint, 
delicate color in her cheeks. Her thin, slender 
body bent forward. Her little hand would creep 
into yours with a shy pressure. Her little mouth 
was the most silent of mouths and the most serious. 
Ah, her voice, her sweet little voice, which pro- 
nounced the words so slowly and so well, but never 
rang with the freshness and warmth of youth, — its 
feeble tones were like a weary musician's last chord. 

*' She was not as others. Her foot trod so lightly, 
so softly, as if she were a frightened fugitive. She 
kept her eyelids lowered in order not to be disturbed 
in her contemplation of the visions of her soul. It 
had turned from the earth when she was but a child. 

"When she was little her grandmother used to tell 
her stories ; and one evening they both sat by the 
fire; but the stories had come to an end. But still 
the little girl's hand lay on the old woman's dress. 


and she gently stroked the silk, — that funny stuflf 
which sounded like a little bird. And this stroking 
was her prayer, for she was one of those children 
who never beg in words. 

"Then the old lady began to tell her of a little 
child in the land of Judah; of a little child who 
was born to become a great King. The angels had 
filled the earth with songs of praise when he was 
bom. The kings of the East came, guided by the 
star of heaven, and gave him gold and incense; and 
old men and women foretold his glory. This child 
grew up to greater beauty and wisdom than all other 
children. Already, when he was twelve years old, 
his wisdom was greater than that of the chief -priests 
and the scribes. 

" Then the old woman told her of the most beauti- 
ful thing the earth has ever seen: of that child's 
life while he remained among men, — those wicked 
men who would not acknowledge him their King. 

" She told her how the child became a man, but 
that the glory surrounded him still. 

"Everything on the earth served him and loved 
him, except mankind. The fishes let themselves be 
caught in his net, bread filled his baskets, water 
changed itself to wine when he wished it. 

"But the people gave the great King no golden 
crown, no shining throne. He had no bowing court- 
iers about him. They let him go among them like 
a beggar. 

"Still, he was so good to them, the great King! 
He cured their sicknesses, gave back to the blind 
their sight, and waked the dead. 

" ' But, ' said the grandmother, * the people would 
not have the great King for their lord. 


" ' They sent their soldiers against him, and took 
him prisoner ; they dressed him, by way of mockery, 
in crown and sceptre, and in a silken cloak, and 
made him go out to the place of execution, bearing 
a heavy cross. Oh, my child, the good King loved 
the high mountains. At night he used to climb 
them to talk with those who dwelt in heaven, and 
he liked by day to sit on the mountain^side and talk 
to the listening people. But now they led him up 
on a mountain to crucify him. They drove nails 
through his hands and feet, and hung the good King 
on a cross, as if he had been a robber or a malefactor. 

" ' And the people mocked at him. Only his mother 
and his friends wept, that he should die before he 
had been a King. 

' Oh, how the dead things mourned his death! 
' The sun lost its light, and the mountains trem- 
bled ; the curtain in the temple was rent asunder, 
and the graves opened, that the dead might rise up 
and show their grief. ' 

" The little one lay with her head on her grand- 
mother's knee, and sobbed as if her heart would 

"'Do not weep, little one; the good King rose 
from his grave and went up to his Father in heaven. ' 

" ' Grandmother,' sobbed the poor little thing, ' did 
he ever get any kingdom } ' 

' He sits on God's right hand in heaven.* 
But that did not comfort her. She wept help- 
lessly and unrestrainedly, as only a child can weep. 

" * Why were they so cruel to him ? Why were 
they allowed to be so cruel to him } * 

" Her grandmother was almost frightened at her 
overwhelming sorrow. 





" ' Say, grandmother, say that you have not told it 
right ! Say that it did not end so ! Say that they 
were not so cruel to the good King ! Say that he 
got a kingdom on earth ! ' 

" She threw her arms around the old woman and 
beseeched her with streaming tears. " 

" * Child, child,' said her grandmother, to console 
her. There are some who believe that he will 
come again. Then he will put the earth under his 
power and direct it. The beautiful earth will be a 
glorious kingdom. It shall last a thousand years. 
Then the fierce animals will be gentle ; little chil- 
dren will play by the viper's nest, and bears and 
cows will eat together. No one shall injure or 
destroy the other; the lance shall be bent into 
scythes, and the sword forged into ploughs. And 
everything shall be play and happiness, for the good 
will possess the earth. ' 

"Then the little one's face brightened behind her 

" ' Will the good King then get a throne, grand- 
mother? * 

A throne of gold. * 

And servants, and courtiers, and a golden 
crown } * 

" ' Yes. ' 

"* Will he come soon, grandmother? * 

" ' No one knows when he will come.' 
May I sit on a stool at his feet? ' 
You may. ' 

Grandmother, I am so happy,' says the little 

"Evening after evening, through many winters, 
they both sat by the fire and talked of the good 

« < 

u t 

€< t 
<( ( 


King and his kingdom. The little one dreamed of 
the kingdom which should last a thousand years, both 
by night and by day. She never wearied of adorn- 
ing it with everything beautiful which she could 
think of. 

" Ebba Dohna never dared to speak of it to any 
one ; but from that evening she only lived for the 
Lord's kingdom, and to await his coming. 

"When the evening sun crimsoned the western 
sky, she wondered if he would ever appear there, 
glowing with a mild splendor, followed by a host of 
millions of angels, and march by her, allowing her 
to touch the hem of his garment. 

"She often thought, too, of those pious women 
who had hung a veil over their heads, and never lifted 
their eyes from the ground, but shut themselves in 
in the gray cloister's calm, in the darkness of little 
cells, to always contemplate the glowing visions 
which appear from the night of the soul. 

" Sucjjjiad she grown up ; such ^she was when she 
and the new tutor met in the lonely paths of the 

" I will not speak more harshly of him than I must. 
I will believe that he loved that child, who soon 
chose him for companion in her lonely wanderings. 
I think that his soul got back its wings when he 
walked by the side of that quiet girl, who had never 
confided in any other. I think that he felt himself 
a child again, good, gentle, virtuous. 

" But if he really loved her, why did he not remem- 
ber that he could not give her a worse gift than his 
love.? He, one of the world's outcasts, what did he 
want, what did he think of when he walked at the 
side of the count's daughter? What did the dis- 



missed clergyman think when she confided to him 
her gentle dreams? What did he want, who had 
been a drunkard, and would be again when he got 
the chance, at the side of her who dreamed of a 
bridegroom in heaven? Why did he not fly far, far 
away from her? Would it not have been better for 
him to wander begging and stealing about the land 
than to walk under the silent pines and again be 
good, gentle, virtuous, when it could not change 
the life he had led, nor make it right that Ebba 
Dohna should love him? 

"Do not think that he looked like a drunkard, 
with livid cheeks and red eyes. He was always a 
splendid man, handsome and unbroken in soul and 
body. He had the bearing of a king and a body of 
steel, which was not hurt by the wildest life. " 

"Is he still living? " asks the countess. 

" Oh, no, he must be dead now. All that happened 
so long ago. " 

There is something in Anna Stjarnhok which 
begins to tremble at what she is doing. She begins 
to think that she will never tell the countess who 
the man is of whom she speaks; that she will let 
her believe that he is dead. 

" At that time he was still young ; '* and she begins 
her story again. "The joy of living was kindled in 
him. He had the gift of eloquence, and a fiery, 
impulsive heart. 

" One evening he spoke to Ebba Dohna of love. 
She did not answer; she only told him what her 
grandmother had told her that winter evening, and 
described to him the land of her dreams. Then she 
exacted a promise from him. She made him swear 
that he would be a proclaimer of the word of God; 


one of those who would prepare the way for the Lord, 
so that his coming might be hastened. 

"What could he do? He was a dismissed clergy- 
man, and no way was so closed to him as that on 
which she wanted him to enter. But he did not dare 
to tell her the truth. He did not have the heart 
to grieve that gentle child whom he loved. He 
promised everything she wished. 

"After that few words were needed. It went 
without saying that some day she should be his 
wife. It was not a love of kisses and caresses. 
He hardly dared come near her. She was as sensi- 
tive as a fragile flower. But her brown eyes were 
sometimes raised from the ground to seek his. On 
moonlit evenings, when they sat on the veranda, she 
would creep close to him, and then he would kiss 
her hair without her noticing it. 

" But you understand that his sin was in his for- 
getting both the past and the future. That he was 
poor and humble he could forget; but he ought 
always to have remembered that a day must come 
when in her soul love would rise against love, earth 
against heaven, when she would be obliged to choose 
between him and the glorious Lord of the kingdom 
of the thousand years. And she was not one wh9. 
could endure such a struggle. 

" A summer went by, an autumn, a winter. When 
the spring came, and the ice melted, Ebba Dohna 
fell ill. It was thawing in the valleys ; there were 
streams down all the hills, the ice was unsafe, the 
roads almost impassable both for sledge and cart. 

"Countess Dohna wanted to get a doctor from 
Karlstad; there was none nearer. But she com- 
manded in vai». She could not, either with prayers 


or threats, induce a servant to go. She threw her- 
self on her knees before the coachman, but he re- 
fused. She went into hysterics of grief over her 
daughter — she was always immoderate, in sorrow as 
in joy, Countess Marta. 

" Ebba Dohna lay ill with pneumonia, and her life 
was in danger; but no doctor could be got. 

" Then the tutor drove to Karlstad. To take that 
journey in the condition the roads were in was to 
play with his life; but he did it. It took him over 
bending ice and break-neck freshets. Sometimes 
he had to cut steps for the horse in the ice, some- 
times drag him out of the deep clay in the road. It 
was said that the doctor refused to go with him, and 
that he, with pistol in hand, forced him to set 

" When he came back the countess was ready to 
throw herself at his feet. ' Take everything! ' she 
said. ' Say what you want, what you desire, — my 
daughter, my lands, my money ! ' 

"* Your daughter,' answered the tutor." 

Anna Stjamhok suddenly stops. 

" Well, what then, what then ? " asks Countess 

"That can be enough for now," answers Anna, for 
she is one of those unhappy people who live in the 
anguish of doubt. She has felt it a whole week. 
She does not know what she wants. What one 
moment seems right to her the next is wrong. Now 
she wishes that she had never begun this story. 

" I begin to think that you want to deceive me, 
Anna. Do you not understand that I must hear the 
end of this story ? " 

"There is not much more to tell. — The hour of 


Strife was come for Ebba Dohna. Love raised itself 
against love, earth against heaven. 

" Countess Marta told her of the wonderful jour- 
ney which the young man had made for her sake, 
and she said to her that she, as a reward, had given 
him her hand. 

" Ebba was so much better that she lay dressed on 
a sofa. She was weak and pale, and even more silent 
than usual. 

**When she heard those words she lifted her 
brown eyes reproachfully to her mother, and said to 
her: — 

" * Mamma, have you given me to a dismissed 
priest, to one who has forfeited his right to serve 
God, to a man who has been a thief, a beggar } ' 

" * But, child, who has told you that } I thought 
you knew nothing of it. ' 

" ' I heard your guests speaking of him the day I 
was taken ill. ' 

" ' But, child, remember that he has saved your 

" ' I remember that he .has deceived me. He 
should have told me who he was.' 

" * He says that you love him. * 

" ' I have done so. I cannot love one who has 
deceived me.' 

* How has he deceived you ? * 
' You would not understand, mamma. ' 
She did not wish to speak to her mother of the 
kingdom of her dreams, which her beloved should 
have helped her to realize. 

" ' Ebba, ' said the countess, ' if you love him you 
shall not ask what he has been, but marry him. The 
husband of a Countess Dohna will be rich enough, 


powerful enough, to excuse all the follies of his 
youth. ' 

"' I care nothing for his youthful follies, mamma; 
it is because he can never be what I want him to be 
that I cannot marry him. ' 

" ' Ebba, remember that I have given him my 
promise ! ' 

" The girl became as pale as death. 

" * Mamma, I tell you that if you marry me to him 
you part me from God. ' 

" * I have decided to act for your happiness, ' says 
the countess. * I am certain that you happy 
with this man. You have already succeeded in mak- 
ing a saint of him. I have decided to overlook the 
claims of birth and to forget that he is poor and 
despised, in order to give you a chance to raise him. 
I feel that I am doing right. You know that I scorn 
all old prejudices. ' 

" The young girl lay quiet on her sofa for a while 
after the countess had left her. She was fighting 
her battle. Earth raised itself against heaven, love 
against love; but her childhood's love won the vic- 
tory. As she lay there on the sofa, she saw the 
western sky glow in a magnificent sunset. She 
thought that it was a greeting from the good King; 
and as she could not be faithful to him if she lived, 
she decided to die. There was nothing else for her 
to do, since her mother wished her to belong to one 
who never could be the good King's servant. 

" She went over to the window, opened it, and let 
the twilight's cold, damp air chill her poor, weak body. 

" It was easily done. The illness was certain to 
begin again, and it did. 

"No one but I knows that she sought death, 


Elizabeth. I found her at the window. I heard her 
delirium. She liked to have me at her side those 
last days. 

"It was I who saw her die; who saw how she one 
evening stretched out her arms towards the glowing 
west, and died, smiling, as if she had seen some one 
advance from the sunset's glory to meet her. It was 
also I who had to take her last greeting to the man 
she loved. I was to ask him to forgive her, that 
she could not be his wife. The good King would 
not permit it. 

" But I have never dared to say to that man that 
he was her murderer. I have not dared to lay the 
weight of such pain on his shoulders. And yet he, 
who won her love by lies, was he not her miurderer? 
Was he not, Elizabeth 1 " 

Countess Dohna long ago had stopped caressing 
the blue flowers. Now she rises, and the bouquet 
falls to the floor. 

''Anna, you are deceiving me. You say that the 
story is old, and that the man has been dead a long 
time. But I know that it is scarcely five years since 
Ebba Dohna died, and you say that you yourself 
were there through it all. You are not old. Tell 
me who the man is ! *' 

Anna Stjamhok begins to laugh. 

"You wanted a love-story. Now you have had 
one which has cost you both tears and pain." 

"Do you mean that you have lied? " 

"Nothing but romance and lies, the whole thing I *' 

"You are too bad, Anna." 

" Maybe. I am not so happy, either. — But the 
ladies are awake, and the men are coming into the 
drawing-room. Let us join them!" 


On the threshold she is stopped by Gosta Berling, 
who is looking for the young ladies. 

"You must have patience with me,'* he says, 
laughing. " I shall only torment you for ten min- 
utes; but you must hear my verses." 

He tells them that in the night he had had a 
dream more vivid than ever before ; he had dreamt 
that he had written verse. He, whom the world 
called " poet,** although he had always been undeserv- 
ing of the title, had got up in the middle of the 
night, and, half asleep, half awake, had begun to 
write. It was a whole poem, which he had found 
the next morning on his writing-table. He could 
never have believed it of himself. Now the ladies 
should hear it. 

And he reads : — 

" The moon rose, and with her came the sweetest hour of the 
From the clear, pale-blue, lofty vault 
She flooded the leafy veranda with her light. 
On the broad steps we were sitting, both old and young, 
Silent at first to let the emotions sing 
The heart's old song in that tender hour. 

" From the mignonette rose a sweet perfume, 
And from dark thickets shadows crept over the dewy grass. 
Oh, who can be safe from emotion 

When the night's shadows play, when the mignonette sheds 
its heavy perfume? 

" The last faded petal dropped from the rose, 
Although the offering was not sought by the wind* 
So — we thought — will we give up our life, 
Vanish into space like a sound, 
Like autumn's yellowed leaf go without a moan. 
Death is the reward of life ; may we meet it quietly, 
Just as a rose lets its last faded petal fall. 


" On its fluttering wing a bat flew by us, 
Flew and was seen, wherever the moon shone ; 
Then the question arose in our oppressed hearts, — 

" The question which none can answer, 
The question, heavy as sorrow, old as pain : 

* Oh, whither go we, what paths shall we wander 
When we no longer walk on earth's green pastures?' 
Is there no one to show our spirits the way ? 

Easier were it to show a way to the bat who fluttered by us. 

"She laid her head on my shoulder, her soft hair, 
She, who loved me, and whispered softly : 

* Think not that souls fly to far-distant places ; 
When I am dead, think not that I am far away. 
Into my beloved's soul my homeless spirit will creep 
And I will come and live in thee.' 

** Oh what anguish ! With sorrow my heart will break. 
Was she to die, die soon ? Was this night to be her last? 
Did I press my last kiss on my beloved's waving hair ? 

** Years have gone by since then. I still sit many times 
In the old place, when the night is dark and silent. 
But I tremble when the moon shines on the leafy veranda, 
For her who alone knows how often I kissed my darling there, 
For her who blended her quivering light with my tears. 
Which fell on my darling's hair. 
Alas, for memory's pain ! Oh, 't is the grief of my poor, sinful 

That it should be her home ! What punishment may he not 

Who has bound to himself a soul so pure, so innocent." 

"Gosta," says Anna, jestingly, while her throat 
contracts with pain, "people say of you that you 
have lived through more poems than others have 
written, who have not done anything else all their 
lives; but do you know, you will do best to compose 
poems your own way. That was night work." 


" You are not kind " 

"To come and read such a thing, on death and 
suffering — you ought to be ashamed ! '* 

Gosta is not listening to her. His eyes are fixed 
on the young countess. She sits quite stiff, motion- 
less as a statue. He thinks she is going to faint. 

But with infinite difficulty her lips form one word. 

" Go ! " she says. 

" Who shall go > Shall / go t " 

" The priest shall go, " she stammers out. 

"Elizabeth, be silent!" 

" The drunken priest shall leave my house ! " 

"Anna, Anna,** Gosta asks, "what does she 
mean } ** 

"You had better go, Gosta." 

" Why shall I go ? What does all this mean } " 

"Anna,** says Countess Elizabeth, "tell him, tell 
him ! ** 

" No, countess, tell him yourself ! " 

The countess sets her teeth, and masters her 

"Herr Berling,** she says, and goes up to him, 
" you have a wonderful power of making people for- 
get who you are. I did not know it till to-day. I 
have just heard the story of Ebba Dohna's death, 
and that it was the discovery that she loved one who 
was unworthy which killed her. Your poem has 
made me understand that you are that man. I 
cannot understand how any one with your antece- 
dents can show himself in the presence of an honor- 
able woman. I cannot understand it, Herr Berling. 
Do I speak plainly enough } '* 

" You do. Countess. I will only say one word in 
my defence. I was convinced, I thought the whole 


time that you knew everything about me. I have 
never tried to hide anything; but it is not so pleasant 
to cry out one's life's bitterest sorrow on the high- 
ways. " 

He goes. 

And in the same instant Countess Dohna sets her 
little foot on the bunch of blue stars. 

" You have now done what I wished, *' says Anna 
Stjarnhok sternly to the countess; "but it is also 
the end of our friendship. You need not think that 
I can forgive your having been cruel to him. You 
have turned him away, scorned, and wounded him, 
and I — I will follow him into captivity ; to the 
scaffold if need be. I will watch over him, protect 
him. You have done what I wished, but I shall 
never forgive you." 

"But, Anna, Anna!" 

" Because I told you all that do you think that I 
did it with a glad spirit } Have I not sat here and 
bit by bit torn my heart out of my breast } '* 

" Why did you do it t " 

" Why } Because I did not wish — that he should 
be a married woman's lover." 




There is a buzzing over my head. It must be a 
bumblebee. And such a perfume! As true as I 
live, it is sweet marjoram and lavender and hawthorn 
and lilacs and Easter lilies. It is glorious to feel it on 
a gray autumn evening in the midst of the town. I 
only have to think of that little blessed corner of the 
earth to have it immediately begin to hum and smell 
fragrant about me, and I am transported to a little 
square rose-garden, filled with flowers and protected 
by a privet hedge. In the corners are lilac arbors 
with small wooden benches, and round about the 
flower-beds, which are in the shapes of hearts and 
stars, wind narrow paths strewed with white sea-sand. 
On three sides of the rose-garden stands the forest, 
silent and dark. 

On the fourth side lies a little gray cottage. 

The rose-garden of which I am thinking was 
owned sixty years ago by an old Madame Moreus in 
Svartsjo, who made her living by knitting blankets for 
the peasants and cooking their feists. 

Old Madame Moreus was in her day the possessor 
of many things. She had three lively and industrious 
daughters and a little cottage by the roadside. She 
had a store of pennies at the bottom of a chest, stifi" 
silk shawls, straight-backed chairs, and could turn 
her hand to everything, which is useful for one who 




must earn her bread. But the best that she had was 
the rose-garden, which gave her joy as long as the 
summer lasted. 

In Madame Moreus' little cottage there was a 
boarder, a little dry old maid, about forty years of 
age, who lived in a gable-room in the attic. Mamselle 
Marie, as she was always called, had her own ideas 
on many things, as one always does who sits much 
alone and lets her thoughts dwell on what her eyes 
have seen, 

Mamselle Marie thought that love was the root and 
origin of all evil in this sorrowful world. 

Every evening, before she fell asleep, she used to 
clasp her hands and say her evening prayers. After 
she had said "Our Father" and "The Lord bless 
us " she always ended by praying that God would 
preserve her from love. 

" It causes only misery," she said. " I am old and 
ugly and poor. No, may I never be in love ! " 

She sat day after day in her attic room in Madame 
Moreus' little cottage, and knitted curtains and table- 

ivers. All these she afterwards sold to the peasants 

id the gentry. She had almost knitted together a 

;Ie cottage of her own. 

For a little cottage on the side of the hill opposite 
Svartsjo church was what she wanted to have. But 
love she would never hear of. 

When on summer evenings she heard the violin 
sounded from the cross roads, where the fiddler sat 
on the stile, and the young people swung in the polka 
till the dust whirled, she went a long way round 
through the wood to avoid hearing and seeing. 

The day after Christmas, when the peasant brides 
five or six of them, to be dressed by Madame 


Moreus and her daughters, when they were adorned 
with wreaths of myrtle, and high crowns of silk, and 
glass beads, with gorgeous silk sashes and bunches of 
artificial roses, and skirts edged with garlands of 
taffeta flowers, she stayed up in her room to avoid see- 
ing how they were being decked out in Love's honor. 

But she knew Love's misdeeds, and of them she 
could tell. She wondered that he dared to show him- 
self on earth, that he was not frightened away by 
the moans of the forsaken, by the curses of those of 
whom he had made criminals, by the lamentations of 
those whom he had thrown into hateful chains. She 
wondered that his wings could bear him so easily 
and lightly, that he did not, weighed down by pain 
and shame, sink into nameless depths. 

No, of course she had been young, she like others, 
but she had never loved. She had never let her- 
self be tempted by dancing and caresses. Her 
mother's guitar hung dusty and unstrung in the attic; 
she never struck it to sentimental love-ditties. 

Her mother's rose bushes stood in her window. 
She gave them scarcely any water. She did not love 
flowers, those children of love. Spiders played 
among the branches, and the buds never opened. 

There came a time when the Svartsjo congrega- 
tion had an organ put '.ito their church. It was the 
summer before the year when the pensioners reigned. 
A young organ-builder came there. He too became 
a boarder at Madame Moreus*. 

That the young organ-builder was a master of his 
profession may be a matter of doubt. But he was a 
gay young blade, with sunshine in his eyes. He had 
a friendly word for every one, for rich and poor, for 
old and young. 


When he came home from his work in the evening, 
he held Madame Moreus' skeins, and worked at the 
side of young girls in the rose-garden. Then he de- 
claimed " Axel " and sang " Frithiof." He picked up 
Mamselle Marie's ball of thread as often as she 
dropped it, and put her clock to rights. 

He never left any ball until he had danced with 
everybody, from the oldest woman to the youngest 
girl, and if an adversity befell him, he sat himself 
down by the side of the first woman he met and made 
her his confidante. He was such a man as women 
create in their dreams ! It could not be said of him 
that he spoke of love to any one. But when he had 
lived a few weeks in Madame Moreus' gable-room, all 
the girls were in love with him, and poor Mamselle 
Marie knew that she had prayed her prayers in vain. 

That was a time of sorrow and a time of joy. In 
the evening a pale dreamer often sat in the lilac 
arbor, and up in Mamselle Marie's little room the 
newly strung guitar twanged to old love-songs, which 
she had learned from her mother. 

The young organ-builder was just as careless and 
gay as ever, and doled out smiles and services to all 
these languishing women, who quarrelled over him 
when he was away at his work. And at last the day 
came when he had to leave. 

The carriage stood before the door. His bag had 
been tied on behind, and the young man said farewell. 
He kissed Madame Moreus' hand and took the weep- 
ing girls in his arms and kissed them on the cheek. 
He wept himself at being obliged to go, for he had 
had a pleasant summer in the little gray cottage. At 
the last he looked around for Mamselle Marie. 

She came down the narrow attic-stairs in her best 


array. The guitar hung about her neck on a broad, 
green-silk ribbon, and in her hand she held a bunch 
of damask roses, for this year her mother's rose- 
bushes had blossomed. She stood before the young 
man, struck the guitar and sang : — 

" Thou goest far from us. Ah I welcome again ! 
Hear the voice of my friendship, which greets thee. 
Be happy : forget not a true, loving friend 
Who in Varmland's forests awaits thee 1 " 

Thereupon she put the flowers in his button- 
hole and kissed him square on the mouth. Yes, and 
then she vanished up the attic stairs again, the old 

Love had revenged himself on her and made her 
a spectacle for all men. But she never again com- 
plained of him. She never laid away the guitar, and 
never forgot to water her mother's rose-bushes. 

She had learned to cherish Love with all his pain, 
his tears, his longing. 

" Better to be sorrowful with him than happy with- 
out him," she said. 

The time passed. The major's wife at Ekeby was 
driven out, the pensioners came to power, and it so 
happened, as has been described, that Gosta Berling 
one Sunday evening read a poem aloud to the 
countess at Borg, and afterwards was forbidden by 
her to show himself in her house. 

It is said that when Gosta shut the hall-door after 
him he saw several sledges driving up to Borg. He 
cast a glance on the little lady who sat in the first 
sledge. Gloomy as the hour was for him, it became 
still more gloomy at the sight. He hurried away 
not to be recognized, but forebodings of disaster filled 


his soul. Had the conversation in there conjured up 
this woman? One misfortune always brings another. 

But the servants hurried out, the shawls and furs 
were thrown one side. Who had come? Who was 
the little lady who stood up in the sledge? Ah, it is 
really she herself, Marta Dohna, the far-famed 
countess ! 

She was the gayest and most foolish of women. 
Joy had lifted her on high on his throne and made 
her his queen. Games and laughter were her subjects. 
Music and dancing and adventure had been her share 
when the lottery of life was drawn. 

She was not far now from her fiftieth year, but she 
was one of the wise, who do not count the years. " He 
whose foot is not ready to dance, or mouth to laugh," 
she said, " he is old. He knows the terrible weight 
of years, not I." 

Pleasure had no undisturbed throne in the days of 
her youth, but change and uncertainty only increased 
the delight of his glad presence. His Majesty of the 
butterfly wings one day had afternoon tea in the 
court ladies' rooms at the palace in Stockholm, and 
danced the next in Paris. He visited Napoleon's 
camps, he went on board Nelson's fleet in the blue 
Mediterranean, he looked in on a congress at Vienna, 
he risked his life at Brussels at a ball the night 
before a famous battle. 

And wherever Pleasure was, there too was Marta 
Dohna, his chosen queen. Dancing, playing, jesting, 
Countess Marta hurried the whole world round. 
What had she not seen, what had . she not lived 
through ? She had danced over thrones, played 6cart6 
on the fate of princes, caused devastating wars by her 
jests ! Gayety and folly had filled her life and would 



always do so. Her body was not too old for dancing, 
nor her heart for love. When did she weary of mas- 
querades and comedies, of merry stories and plaintive 
ballads ? 

When Pleasure sometimes could find no home out 
in the struggling world, she used to drive up to the 
old manor by Lofven's shores, — just as she had come 
there when the princes and their court had become 
too gloomy for her in the time of the Holy Alliance. 
It was then she had thought best to make Gosta Ber- 
ling her son's tutor. She always enjoyed it there. 
Never had Pleasure a pleasanter kingdom. There 
song was to be found and card-playing, men who 
loved adventure, and gay, lovely women. She did 
not lack for dances and balls, nor boating-parties 
over moonlit seas, nor sledging through dark forests, 
nor appalling adventures and love's sorrow and pain. 

But after her daughter's death she had ceased to 
come to Borg. She had not been there for five years. 
Now she had come to see how her daughter-in-law 
bore the life up among the pine forests, the bears, 
and the snow-drifts. She thought it her duty to 
come and see if the stupid Henrik had not bored 
her to death with his tediousness. She meant to be 
the gentle angel of domestic peace. Sunshine and 
happiness were packed in her forty leather trunks, 
Gayety was her waiting-maid. Jest her coachman, 
Play her companion. 

And when she ran up the steps she was met with 
open arms. Her old rooms on the lower floor were 
in order for her. Her man-servant, her lady com- 
panion, and maid, her forty leather trunks, her thirty 
hat-boxes, her bags and shawls and furs, everything 
was brought by degrees into the house. There was 



Vustle and noise everywhere. There was a slamming 
of doors and a running on the stairs. It was plain 
enough that Countess Marta had come. 

It was a spring evening, a really beautiful spring 

'ening, although it was only April and the ice had 
not broken up. Mamselle Marie had opened her 
window. She sat in her room, played on the guitar, 
and sang. 

She was so engrossed in her guitar and her mem- 
ories that she did not hear that a carriage came 
driving up the road and stopped at the cottage. In 
the carriage Countess Marta sat, and it amused her 
to see Mamselle Marie, who sat at the window with 
her guitar on her lap, and with eyes turned towards 
heaven sang old forgotten love-songs. 

At last the countess got out of the carriage and 
went into the cottage, where the girls were sitting at 
their work. She was never haughty; the wind of 
revolution had whistled over her and blown fresh air 
into her lungs. 

It was not her fault that she was a countess, she 
used to say; but she wanted at all events to live the 
life she liked best. She enjoyed herself just as much 
at peasant weddings as at court balls. She acted 
for her maids when there was no other spectator to be 
had, and she brought joy with her in all the places 
where she showed herself, with her beautiful little face 
and her overflowing love of life. 

She ordered a blanket of Madame Moreus and 
praised the girls. She looked about the rose-garden 
and told of her adventures on the journey. She 
always was having adventures. And at the last she 

iturcd up the attic stairs, which were dreadfully 


Steep and narrow, and sought out Mamselle Marie 
in her gable-room. 

She bought curtains of her. She could not live 
without having knitted curtains for all her windows, 
and on every table should she have Mamselle Marie's 

She borrowed her guitar and sang to her of 
pleasure and love. And she told her stories, so that 
Mamselle Marie found herself transported out into 
the gay, rushing world. And the countess's laughter 
made such music that the frozen birds in the rose- 
garden began to sing when they heard it, and her 
face, which was hardly pretty now, — for her com- 
plexion was ruined by paint, and there was such an 
expression of sensuality about the mouth, — seemed 
to Mamselle Marie so lovely that she wondered how 
the little mirror could let it vanish when it had once 
caught it on its shining surface. 

When she left, she kissed Mamselle Marie and 
asked her to come to Borg. 

Mamselle Marie's heart was as empty as the swal- 
low's-nest at Christmas. She was free, but she sighed 
for chains like a slave freed in his old age. 

Now there began again for Mamselle Marie a time 
of joy and a time of sorrow; but it did not last long, 
— only one short week. 

The countess sent for her continually to come to 
Borg. She played her comedy for her and told 
about all her lovers, and Mamselle Marie laughed as 
she had never laughed before. They became the 
best of friends. The countess soon knew all about 
the young organ-builder and about the parting. 
And in the twilight she made Mamselle Marie sit on 
the window-seat in the little blue cabinet. Then she 


hung the guitar ribbon round her neck and got her to 
sing love-songs. And the countess sat and watched 
how the old maid's dry, thin figure and little plain 
head were outlined against the red evening sky, and 
she said that the poor old Mamselle was like a lan- 
guishing maiden of the Middle Ages. All the songs 
were of tender shepherds and cruel shepherdesses, and 
Mamselle Marie's voice was the thinnest voice in 
the world, and it is easy to understand how the 
countess was amused at such a comedy. 

There was a party at Borg, as was natural, when 
the count's mother had come home. And it was gay 
as always. There were not so many there, only the 
members of the parish being invited. 

The dining-room was on the lower floor, and after 
supper it so happened that the guests did not go up- 
stairs again, but sat in Countess Marta's room, which 
lay beyond. The countess got hold of Mamselle 
Marie's guitar and began to sing for the company. 
She was a merry person. Countess Marta, and she 
could mimic any one. She now had the idea to 
mimic Mamselle Marie. She turned up her eyes to 
heaven and sang in a thin, shrill, child's voice. 

" Oh no, oh no, countess ! " begged Mamselle Marie. 

But the countess was enjoying herself, and no one 
could help laughing, although they all thought that 
it was hard on Mamselle Marie. 

The countess took a handful of dried rose-leaves 
out of a pot-pourri jar, went with tragic gestures up 
to Mamselle Marie, and sang with deep emotion : — 

" Thou goest far from us. Ah 1 welcome again ! 
Hear the voice of my friendship, which greets thee. 
Be happy : forget not a true, loving friend 
Who in Varmland^s forests awaits thee I *' 


Then she strewed the rose-leaves over her head. 
Everybody laughed; but Mamselle Marie was wild 
with rage. She looked as if she could have torn out 
the countess's eyes. 

" You are a bad woman, Marta Dohna/' she said. 
" No decent woman ought to speak to you." 

Countess Marta lost her temper too. 

" Out with you, mamselle ! " she said. " I have 
had enough of your folly." 

" Yes, I shall go," said Mamselle Marie ; " but first 
I will be paid for my covers and curtains which you 
have put up here." 

" The old rags ! " cried the countess. " Do you 
want to be paid for such rags? Take them away 
with you ! I never want to see them again I Take 
them away immediately ! " 

Thereupon the countess threw the table-covers at her 
and tore down the curtains, for she was beside herself. 

The next day the young countess begged her 
mother-in-law to make her peace with Mamselle 
Marie ; but the countess would not She was tired 
of her. 

Countess Elizabeth then bought of Mamselle Marie 
the whole set of curtains and put them up in the 
upper floor. Whereupon Mamselle Marie felt her- 
self redressed. I 

Countess Marta made fun of her daughter-in-law 
for her love of knitted curtains. She too could con- 
ceal her anger — preserve it fresh and new for years. 
She was a richly gifted person. 




They had an old bird of prey up in the pensioners' 
wing. He always sat in the corner by the fire and 
saw that it did not go out. He was rough and gray. 
His little head with the big nose and the sunken eyes 
hung sorrowfully on the long, thin neck which stuck 
up out of a fluffy fur collar. For the bird of prey 
wore furs both winter and summer. 

Once he had belonged to the swarm who in the 
great Emperor's train swept over Europe ; but what 
name and title he bore no one now can say. In Varm- 
land they only knew that he had taken part in the 
great wars, that he had risen to might and power in 
the thundering struggle, and that after 1815 he had 
taken flight from an ungrateful fatherland. He found 
a refuge with the Swedish Crown Prince, and the 
latter advised hkn to disappear in far away Varmland. 

And so it happened that one whose name had 
caused the world to tremble was now glad that no 
one even knew that once dreaded name. 

He had given the Crown Prince his word of honor 
not to leave Varmland and not to make known who 


he was. And he had been sent to Ekeby with a pri- 
vate letter to the major from the Crown Prince, who 
had given him the best of recommendations. It was 
then the pensioners' wing opened its doors to him. 

In the beginning people wondered much who he was 
who concealed his identity under an assumed name. 
But gradually he was transformed into a pensioner. 
Everybody called him Cousin Christopher, without 
knowing exactly how he had acquired the name. 

But it is not good for a bird of prey to live in a 
cage. One can understand that he is accustomed to 
something different than hopping from perch to perch 
and taking food from his keeper's hand. The excite- 
ment of the battle and of the danger of death had set 
his pulse on fire. Drowsy peace disgusts him. 

It is true that none of the pensioners were exactly 
tame birds ; but in none of them the blood burned so 
hot as in Cousin Christopher. A bear hunt was the only 
thing which could put life into him, a bear hunt or a 
woman, one single woman. 

He had come to life when he, ten years ago, for the 
first time saw Countess Marta, who was already then 
a widow, — a woman as changeable as war, as inciting 
as danger, a startling, audacious creature ; he loved her. 

And now he sat there and grew old and gray with- 
out being able to ask her to be his wife. He had not 
seen her for five years. He was withering and dying by 
degrees, as caged eagles do. Every year he became 
more dried and frozen. He had to creep down 
deeper into his furs and move nearer the fire. 

So there he is sitting, shivering, shaggy, and gray, 
the morning of the day, on the evening of which the 
Easter bullets should be shot off and the Easter witch 



urned. The pensioners have all gone out ; but he 
sits in the corner by the fire. 

Oh, Cousin Christopher, Cousin Christopher, do 

lu not know? 

Smiling she has come, the enchanting spring. 

Nature up starts from drowsy sleep, and in the 
ilue sky butterfly- winged spirits tumble in wild play. 
Close as roses on the sweet brier, their faces shine 
between the clouds. 

Earth, the great mother, begins to live. Romping 
Uke a child she rises from her bath in the spring floods, 
from her douche in the spring rain. 

But Cousin Christopher sits quiet and does not 
understand. He leans his head on his stiffened fingers 
and dreams of showers of bullets and of honors won 
on the field of battle. 

One pities the lonely old warrior who sits there by 
the fire, without a people, without a country, he who 
never hears the sound of his native language, he who 
will have a nameless grave in the Bro churchyard. 
Is it his fault that he is an eagle, and was born to per- 
secute and to kill? 

Oh, Cousin Christopher, you have sat and dreamed 
long enough in the pensioners' wing! Up and drink 
the sparkling wine of life. You must know, Cousin 
Christopher, that a letter has come to the major this 
day, a royal letter adorned with the seal of Sweden. 
It is addressed to the major, but the contents concern 
you. It is strange to see you, when you read the 
letter, old eagle. Your eye regains its brightness, and 

hu lift your head- You see the cage door open and 
space for your longing wings. 

K Cousin Christopher is burrowing deep down to the 
ttom of his chest. He drags out the carefully laid 


away gold-laced uniform and dresses himself in it 
He presses the plumed hat on his head and he is soon 
hastening away from Ekeby, riding his excellent 
white horse. 

This is another life than to sit shivering by the fire ; 
he too now sees that spring has come. 

He straightens himself up in his saddle and sets off 
at a gallop. The fur-lined dolman flutters. The 
plumes on his hat wave. The man has grown young 
like the earth itself. He has awaked from a long 
winter. The old gold can still shine. The bold war- 
rior face under the cocked hat is a proud sight. 

It is a wonderful ride. Brooks gush from the 
ground, and flowers shoot forth, as he rides by. The 
birds sing and warble about the freed prisoner. All 
nature shares in his joy. 

He is like a victor. Spring rides before on a float- 
ing cloud. And round about Cousin Christopher 
rides a stafi" of old brothers-in-arms : there is Happi- 
ness, who stands on tiptoe in the saddle, and Honor 
on his stately charger, and Love on his fiery Arab. The 
ride is wonderful ; wonderful is the rider. The thrush 
calls to him : — 

"Cousin Christopher, Cousin Christopher, whither 
are you riding? Whither are you riding?" 

" To Borg to offer myself, to Borg to offer myself," 
answers Cousin Christopher. 

" Do not go to Borg, do not go to Borg ! An un- 
married man has no sorrow," screams the thrush 
after him. 

But he does not listen to the warning. Up the 
hills and down the hills he rides, until at last he is 
there. He leaps from the saddle and is shown in to 
the countess. 


Everything goes well. The countess is gracious to 
him. Cousin Christopher feels sure that she will not 
refuse to bear his glorious name or to reign in his 
palace. He sits and puts off the moment of rapture, 
when he shall show her the royal letter. He enjoys 
the waiting.' 

She talks and entertains him with a thousand 
stories. He laughs at everything, enjoys everything. 
But as they are sitting in one of the rooms where 
Countess Elizabeth has hung up Mamselle Marie's 
curtains, the countess begins to tell the story of 
them. And she makes it as funny as she can. 

*' See," she says at last, " see how bad I am. Here 
hang the curtains now, that I may think daily and 
hourly of my sin. It is a penance without equal. 
Oh, those dreadful knitted curtains ! " 

The great warrior. Cousin Christopher, looks at 
her with burning eyes. 

" I, too, am old and poor," he says, " and I have 
sat for ten years by the fire and longed for my mis- 
tress. Do you laugh at that too, countess ? " 

" Oh, that is another matter," cries the countess. 

" God has talcen from me happiness and my father- 
land, and forced me to eat the bread of others," says 
Cousin Christopher, earnestly. " I have learned to 
have respect for poverty." 

" You, too," cries the countess, and holds up her 
hands. " How virtuous every one is getting ! " 

" Yes," he says, " and know, countess, that if God 
some day in the future should give me back riches 
and power, I would make a better use of them than to 
share them with such a worldly woman, such a painted, 
heartless monkey, who makes fun of poverty." 

" You would do quite right, Cousin Christopher." 


And then Cousin Christopher marches out of the 
room and rides home to Ekeby again; but the 
spirits do not follow him, the thrush does not call to 
him, and he no longer sees the smiling spring. 

He came to Ekeby just as the Easter witch was to 
be burned. She is a big doll of straw, with a rag 
face, on which eyes, nose, and mouth are drawn with 
charcoal. She is dressed in old cast-off clothes. The 
long-handled oven-rake and broom are placed beside 
her, and she has a horn of oil hung round her neck. 
She is quite ready for the journey to hell. 

Major Fuchs loads his gun and shoots it off into 
the air time after time. A pile of dried branches is 
lighted, the witch is thrown on it and is soon burning 
gayly. The pensioners do all they can, according to 
the old, tried customs, to destroy the power of the 
evil one. 

Cousin Christopher stands and looks on with gloomy 
mien. Suddenly he drags the great royal letter from 
his cuff and throws it on the fire. God alone knows 
what he thought. Perhaps he imagined that it was 
Countess Marta herself who was burning there on the 
pile. Perhaps he thought that, as that woman, when 
all was said, consisted only of rags and straw, there 
was nothing worth anything any more on earth. 

He goes once more into the pensiapers' wing, 
lights the fire, and puts away his uniform. Again he 
sits down at the fire, and every day he gets more 
rough and more gray. He is dying by degrees, as 
old eagles do in captivity. 

He IS no longer a prisoner ; but he does not care 
to make use of his freedom. The world stands open 
to him. The battle-field, honor, life, await him. But 
he has not the strength to spread his wings in flight 




Weary are the ways which men have to follow here 
on earth. 

Paths through the desert, paths through the marshes, 
paths over the mountains. 

Why is so much sorrow allowed to go undisturbed, 
until it loses itself in the desert or sinks in the bog, 
or falls on the mountain? Where are the little 
flower-pickers, where are the little princesses of the 
fairy tale about whose feet roses grow, where are 
they who should strew flowers on the weary ways? 

Gosta Berling has decided to get married. He is 
searching for a bride who is poor enough, humble 
enough for a mad priest. 

Beautiful and high-born women have loved him, 
but they may not compete for his hand. The out- 
cast chooses from among outcasts. 

Whom shall he choose, whom shall he seek out? 

To Ekeby a poor girl sometimes comes from a 
lonely forest hamlet far away among the mountains, 
and sells brooms. In that hamlet, where poverty 
and great misery exist, there are many who are not 
in possession of their full intellect, and the girl with 
the brooms is one of them. 

But she is beautiful. Her masses of black hair 
make such thick braids that they scarcely And room 


on her head, her cheeks are delicately rounded, her 
nose straight and not too large, her eyes blue. She 
is of a melancholy, Madonna-like type, such as is. 
still found among the lovely girls by the shores of 
Lofven's long lake. 

Well, Gosta has found his sweetheart; a half- 
crazy broom-girl is just the wife for a mad priest 
Nothing can be more suitable. 

All he needs to do is to go to Karlstad for the 
rings, and then they can once more have a merry 
day by Lofven's shore. Let them laugh at Gosta 
Berling when he betroths himself to the broom-girj^, 
when he celebrates his wedding with her 1 Let them 
laugh ! Has he ever had a merrier idea? 

Must not the outcast go the way of the outcasts, 
— the way of anger, the way of sorrow, the way pf 
unhappiness? What does it matter if he falls, if hfe 
is ruined? Is there any one to stop him? Is there 
any one who would reach him a helping hand or 
offer him a cooling drink? Where are the little 
flower-pickers, where are the little princesses of the 
fairy-tale, where are they who should strew roses on 
the stony ways? 

No, no, the gentle young countess at Borg will not 
interfere with Gosta Berling's plans. She must think 
of her reputation, she must think of her husband's 
anger and her mother-in-law's hate, she must not do 
anything to keep him back. 

All through the long service in the Svartsjo church, 
she must bend her head, fold her hands, and only 
pray for him. During sleepless nights she can weep 
and grieve over him, but she has no flowers to strew 
on the way of the outcast, not a drop of water to 
give one who is thirsting. She does not stretch out 


her hand to lead him back from the edge of the 

Gosta Beiiing does not care to clothe his chosen 
bride in silk and jewels. He lets her go from farm 
to farm with brooms, as her habit is, but when he 
has gathered together all the chief men and women 
of the place at a great feast at Ekeby, he will make 
his betrothal known. He will call her in from the 
kitchen, just as she has come from her long wander- 
ings, with the dust and dirt of the road on her clothes, 
perhaps ragged, perhaps with dishevelled hair, with 
wild eyes, with an incoherent stream of words on 
her lips. And he will ask the guests if he has not 
chosen a suitable bride, if the mad priest ought 
not to be proud of such a lovely sweetheart, of 
that gentle Madonna face, of those blue, dreamy 

He intended that no one should know anything 
beforehand, but he did not succeed in keeping the 
secret, and one of those who heard it was the young 
Countess Dohna. 

But what can she do to stop him? It is the engage- 
ment day, the eleventh hour has come. The count- 
ess stands at the window in the blue cabinet and 
looks out towards the north. She almost thinks that 
she can see Ekeby, although her eyes are dim with 
tears. She can see how the great three-storied house 
shines with three rows of lighted windows ; she thinks 
how the champagne flows in the glasses, how the 
toast resounds and how Gosta Berling proclaims his 
engagement to the broom-girl. 

If she were only near him and quite gently could lay 
her hand on his arm, or only give him a friendly look, 
would he not turn back from the evil way? If a 


word from her had driven him to such a desperate 
deed, would not also a word from her check him? ** 

She shudders at the sin he is going to commit 
against that poor, half-witted child. She shudders 
at his sin against the unfortunate creature, who shall 
be won to love him, perhaps only for the jest of a 
single day. Perhaps too — and then she shudders 
even more at the sin he is committing against him- 
self — to chain fast to his life such a galling burden, 
which would always take from his spirit the strength 
to reach the highest. 

And the fault was chiefly hers. She had with a 
word of condemnation driven him on the evil way. 
She, who had come to bless, to alleviate, why had 
she twisted one more thorn into the sinner's crown ? 

Yes, now she knows what she will do. She will 
have the black horses harnessed into the sledge, 
hasten over the Lofven and to Ekeby, place herself 
opposite to Gosta Berling, and tell him that she does 
not despise him, that she did riot know what she was 
saying when she drove him from her house. No, 
she could never do such a thing; she would be 
ashamed and would not dare to say a word. Now 
that she was married, she must take care. There 
would be such a scandal if she did such a thing. 
But if she did not do it, how would it go with him? 

She must go. 

Then she remembers that such a plan is impossible. 
No horse can go again this year over the ice. The 
ice is melting, it has already broken away from the 
land. It is broken, cracked, terrible to see. Water 
bubbles up through it, in some places it has gathered 
in black pools, in other places the ice is dazzlingly 
white. It is mostly gray, dirty with melting snow, 


and the roads look like long, black streaks on its 

How can she think of going? Old Countess 
Marta, her mother-in-law, would never permit such a 
thing.. She must sit beside her the whole evening in 
the drawing-room and listen to those old stories 
which are the older woman's delight. 

At last the night comes, and her husband is away ; 
she is free. 

She cannot drive, she does not dare to call the 
servants, but her anxiety drives her out of her home. 
There is nothing else for her to do. 

Weary are the ways men wander on earth ; but that 
way by night over melting ice, to what shall I com- 
pare it? Is it not the way which the little flower- 
pickers have to go, an uncertain, shaking, slippery 
way, the way of those who wish to make amends, the 
way of the light foot, the quick eye, and the brave, 
loving heart? 

It was past midnight when the countess reached 
the shores of Ekeby. She had fallen on the ice, 
she had leaped over wide fissures, she had hurried 
across places where her footprints were filled with 
bubbling water, she had slipped, she had crept on all 

It had been a weary wandering ; she had wept as 
she had walked. She was wet and tired, and out 
there on the ice, the darkness and the loneliness had 
given her terrible thoughts. 

At the last she had had to wade in water over 
her ankles to reach land. And when she had come 
to the shore, she had not had the courage to do 
more than sit down on a rock and weep from fatigue 
and helplessness. 



This young, high-born lady was, however, a brave 
little heroine. She had never gone such ways in her 
bright mother country. She may well sit by the 
edge of that terrible lake, wet, tired, unhappy as she 
is, and think of the fair, flowery paths of her South- 
ern fatherland. 

Ah, for her it is not a question of South or North. 
She is not weeping from homesickness. She is 
weeping because she is so tired, because she will not 
come in time. She thinks that she has come too 

Then people come running along the shore. They 
hurry by her without seeing her, but she hears what 
they say. 

" If the dam gives way, the smithy goes," one 
says. "And the mill and the work-shops and the 
smith's house," adds another. 

Then she gets new courage, rises, and follows 

Ekeby mill and smithy lay on a narrow point past 
which the Bjorksjo River rushes. It comes roaring 
down towards the point, whipped white in the 
mighty falls above, and to protect the land a great 
break-water was built before the point. But the dam 
was old now, and the pensioners were in power. In 
their day the dance filled all their thoughts, and no 
one took the trouble to see how the current and 
the cold and time had worn the old stone-dam. 

Now with the spring-floods the dam begins to 

The falls at Ekeby are like mighty granite stairs, 
down which the waves come rushing. Giddy with 
the speed, they tumble over one another and rush 


together. They rise up in anger and dash in spray 
over one another, fall again, over a rock, over a 
log, and rise up again, again to fall, again and again, 
foaming, hissing, roaring. 

And now these wild, raging waves, drunken with 
the spring air, dizzy with their newly won freedom, 
storm against the old stone-wall. They come, hissing 
and tearing, high up on to it and then fall back again, 
as if they had hit their white heads. They use logs 
as battering-rams, they strain, they beat, they rush 
against that poor wall, until suddenly, just as if some 
one had called to them, " Look out ! " they rush 
backwards, and after them comes a big stone, which 
has broken away from the dam and sinks thundering 
down in the stream. 

But why are these wild waves allowed to rage 
without meeting any resistance? Is every one dead 
at Ekeby? 

No, there are people enough there, — a wild, per- 
plexed, helpless crowd of people. The night is dark, 
they cannot see one another, nor see where they are 
going. Loud roars the falls, terrible is the din of the 
breaking ice and the pounding logs ; they cannot hear 
their own voices. They have not a thought nor an 
idea. They feel that the end is coming. The dam 
is trembling, the smithy is in danger, the mill is in 
danger, and their own poor houses beloved in all 
their lowliness. 

Message after message is sent up to the house to 
the pensioners. 

Are they in a mood to think of smithy or mill? 
The hundred guests are gathered in the wide walls. 
The broom-girl is waiting in the kitchen. The hour 
has come. The champagne bubbles in the glasses. 


Julius rises to make the speech. All the old adven- 
turers at Ekeby are rejoicing at the petrifying amaze- 
ment which will fall upon the assembly. 

Out on the ice the young Countess Dohna is wan- 
dering a terrible, perilous way in order to whisper a 
word of warning to Gosta Berling. Down at the 
waterfall the waves are storming the honor and 
might of Ekeby, but in the wide halls only joy and 
eager expectation reign, wax-candles are shining, 
wine is flowing ; no one thinks of what is happening 
in the dark, stormy spring night. 

Now has the moment come. Gosta rises and goes 
out to bring in his sweetheart. He has to go 
through the hall, and its great doors are standing 
open; he stops, he looks out into the pitch dark 
night — and he hears, he hears! 

He hears the bells ringing, the falls roaring. He 
hears the thunder of the breaking ice, the noise of 
the pounding logs, the rebellious waves' rushing and 
threatening voice. 

He hastens out into the night, forgetting every- 
thing. Let them inside stand with lifted glasses till 
the world's last day ; he cares nothing for them. 
The broom-girl can wait, Julius's speech may die on 
his lips. There would be no rings exchanged that 
night, no paralyzing amazement would fall upon the 
shining assembly. 

Now the waves must in truth fight for their free- 
dom; for Gosta Berling has come, the people have 
found a leader. Terrified hearts take courage, a 
terrible struggle begins. 

Hear how he calls to the people ; he commands, 
he sets all to work. 

" We must have light, light first of all ; the miller's 


horn-lantern is not enough. See all those piles of 
branches ; carry them up on the cliff and set fire to 
them. That is work for the women and children. 
Only be quick ; build up a great flaming brush-pile 
and set fire to it ! That will light up our work ; that 
will be seen far and wide and bring more to help us. 
And let it never go out ! Bring straw, bring branches, 
let the flames stream up to the sky ! " 

** Look, look, you men, here is work for you. 
Here is timber, here are planks ; make a temporary 
dam, which we can sink in front of this breaking 
wall. Quick, quick to work ; make it firm and solid ! 
Get ready stones and sand-bags to sink it with ! 
Quick ! Swing your axes ! To work ! to work ! " 

** And where are the boys? Get poles, get boat- 
hooks, and come out here in the midst of the struggle. 
Out on the dam with you, boys, right in the waves. 
Keep off, weaken, drive back their attacks, before 
which the walls are cracking. Push aside the logs 
and pieces of ice ; throw yourselves down, if nothing 
else helps, and hold the loosening stones with your 
hands ; bite into them, seize them with claws of iron. 
Out on the wall, boys ! We shall fight for every inch 
of land." 

Gosta himself takes his stand farthest out on the 
dam and stands there covered with spray ; the ground 
shakes under him, the waves thunder and rage, but 
his wild heart rejoices at the danger, the anxiety, the 
struggle. He laughs. He jokes with the boys about 
him on the dam ; he has never had a merrier night. 

The work of rescue goes quickly forward, the fire 
flames, the axes resound, and the dam stands. 

The other pensioners and the hundred guests have 
come down to the waterfall. People come running 


from near and far; all are working, at the fires, at 
the temporary dam, at the sand-bags, out on the 
tottering, trembling stone-wall. 

Now the temporary dam is ready, and shall be 
sunk in front of the yielding break-water. Have the 
stones and sand-bags ready, and boat-hooks and rope, 
that it may not be carried away, that the victory 
may be for the people, and the cowed waves return 
to their bondage. 

It so happens that just before the decisive moment 
Gosta catches sight of a woman who is sitting on 
a stone at the water's edge. The flames from the 
bonfire light her up where she sits staring out over 
the waves ; he cannot see her clearly and distinctly 
through the mist and spray, but his eyes are con- 
tinually drawn to her. Again and again he has to 
look at her. He feels as if that woman had a special 
errand to him. 

Among all these hundreds who are working and 
busy, she is the only one who sits still, and to her 
his eyes keep turning, he can see nothing else. 

She is sitting so far out that the waves break at 
her feet, and the spray dashes over her. She must 
be dripping wet. Her dress is dark, she has a black 
shawl over her head, she sits shrunk together, her 
chin on her hand, and stares persistently at him out 
on the dam. He feels as if those staring eyes were 
drawing and calling, although he cannot even dis- 
tinguish her face; he thinks of nothing but the 
woman who sits on the shore by the white waves. 

'* It is the sea-nymph from the Lofven, who has 
come up the river to lure me to destruction," he 
thinks. '' She sits there and calls and calls. I must 
go and drive her away." 


All these waves with their white heads seem to 
him the black woman's hair; it was she who set 
them on, who led the attack against him. 

" I really must drive her away," he says. 

He seizes a boat-hook, runs to the shore, and 
hurries away to the woman. 

He leaves his place on the end of the dam to drive 
the sea-nymph away. He felt, in that moment of 
excitement, as if the evil powers of the deep were 
fighting against him. He did not know what he 
thought, what he believed, but he must drive that 
black thing away from the stone by the river's edge. 

Alas, Gdsta, why is your place empty in the 
decisive moment? They are coming with the tem- 
porary dam, a long row of men station themselves 
on the break-water; they have ropes and stones and 
sand-bags ready to weight it down and hold it in 
place ; they stand ready, they wait, they listen. Where 
is their leader? Is there no voice to command? 

No, Gosta BerUng is chasing the sea-nymph, his 
voice is silent, his commands lead no one. 

So the temporary dam has to be sunk without him. 
The waves rush back, it sinks into the water and 
after it the stones and sand-bags. But how is the 
work carried out without a leader? No care, no order. 
The waves dash up again, they break with renewed 
rage against this new obstacle, they begin to roll the 
sand-bags over, tear the ropes, loosen the stones ; and 
they succeed, they succeed. Threatening, rejoicing, 
they lift the whole dam on their strong shoulders. 
tear and drag on it, and then they have it in their 
power. Away with the miserable defence, down to 
the Lofvcn with it. And then on once more against 
jhe tottering, helpless stone-wall. 


But Gosta is chasing the sea-nymph. She saw 
him as he came towards her swinging the boat- 
hook. She was frightened. It looked as if she 
was going to throw herself into the water, but she 
changed her mind and ran to the land. 

" Sea-nymph ! " cries Gosta, and brandishes the boat- 
hook. She runs in among the alder-bushes, gets 
entangled in their thick branches, and stops. 

Then Gosta throws away the boat-hook, goes for- 
ward, and lays his hand on her shoulder. 

"You are out late to-night, Countess Elizabeth," 
he says. 

" Let me alone, Herr Berling, let me go home ! " 

He obeys instantly and turns away from her. 

But since she is not only a high-born lady, but a 
really kind little woman, who cannot bear the thought 
that she has driven any one to despair; since she 
i3 a little flower-picker, who always has roses enough 
in her basket to adorn the barrenest way, she re- 
pents, goes after him and seizes his hand. 

'* I came," she says, and stammers, " I came 
to — Oh, Herr Berling, you have not done it? Say 
that you have not done it! I was so frightened 
when you came running after me, but it was you 
I wanted to meet I wanted to ask you not to think 
of what I said the other day, and to come to see me 
as usual." 

" How have you come here, countess? " 

She laughs nervously. " I knew that I should 
come too late, but I did not like to tell any one 
that I was going; and besides, you know, it is im- 
possible to drive over the ice now." 

'* Have you walked across the lake, countess?" 

" Yes, yes, of course ; but, Herr Berling, tell me. 


Are you engaged? You understand; I wish so you 
were not. It is so wrong, you see, and I felt as if 
the whole thing was my fault. You should not have 
minded a word from me so much. I am a stranger, 
who does not know the customs of the country. 
It is so dull at Borg since you do not come any 
more, Herr Berling." 

It seems to Gosta Berling, as he stands among the 
wet alder-bushes on the marshy ground, as if some 
one were throwing over him armfuls of roses. He 
wades in roses up to his knees, they shine before his 
eyes in the darkness, he eagerly drinks in their 

** Have you done that? " she repeats. 

He must make up his mind to answer her and to 
put an end to her anxiety, although his joy is so 
great over it. It grows so warm in him and so bright 
when he thinks what a way she has wandered, how 
wet she is, how frozen, how frightened she must have 
been, how broken with weeping her voice sounds. 

" No," he says, ** I am not engaged." 

Then she takes his hand again and strokes it " I 
am so glad, I am so glad," she says, and her voice is 
shaken with sobs. 

There are flowers enough now on the poet's way, 
everything dark, evil, and hateful melts from his 

** How good you are, how good you are ! " he 

At their side the waves are rushing against all 
Ekeby's honor and glory. The people have no 
leader, no one to instil courage and hope into their 
hearts ; the dam gives way, the waves close over it, 
and then rush triumphant forward to the point where 


the mill and smithy stand. No one tries any longer 
to resist the waves ; no one thinks of anything but of 
saving life and property. 

It seems quite natural to both the young people 
that Gosta should escort the countess home ; he can- 
not leave her alone in this dark night, nor let her again 
wander alone over the melting ice. They never think 
that he is needed up at the smithy, they are so happy 
that they are friends again. 

One might easily believe that these young people 
cherish a warm love for one another, but who can be 
sure? In broken fragments the glowing adventures 
of their lives have come to me. I know nothing, 
or next to nothing, of what was in their innermost 
souls. What can I say of the motives of their actions. 
I only know that that night a beautiful young woman 
risked her life, her honor, her reputation, her health, 
to bring back a poor wretch to the right way. I 
only know that that night Gosta Berling left the 
beloved Ekeby fall to follow her who for his sake 
had conquered the fear of death, the fear of shame, 
the fear of punishment. 

Often in my thoughts I have followed them over 
the ice that terrible night, which ended so well for 
them. I do not think that there was anything hidden 
or forbidden in their hearts, as they wandered over 
the ice, gay and chatting of everything which had 
happened during their separation. 

He is once more her slave, her page, who lies at 
her feet, and she is his lady. 

They are only happy, only joyous. Neither of 
them speaks a word which can denote love. 

Laughing they splash through the water, they 
laugh when they find the path, when they lose it, 


when they slip, when they fall, when they are up 
again; they only laugh. 

This blessed life is once more a merry play, and 
they are children who have been cross and have quar- 
relled. Oh, how good it is to make up and begin to 
play again. 

Rumor came, and rumor went. In time the story 
of the countess's wanderings reached Anna Stjarnhok. 

** I see," she said, " that God has not one string 
only to his bow. I can rest and stay where I am 
needed. He can make a man of Gosta Berling with- 
out my help." 




Dear friends, if it should ever happen that you 
meet a pitiful wretch on your way, a little distressed 
creature, who lets his hat hang on his back and holds 
his shoes in his hand, so as not to have any protec- 
tion from the heat of the sun and the stones of the 
road, one without defence, who of his own free will 
calls down destruction on his head, — well, pass him 
by in silent fear ! It is a penitent, do you understand? 
— a penitent on his way to the holy sepulchre. 

The penitent must wear a coarse cloak and live 
on water and dry bread, even if he were a king. He 
must walk and not ride. He must beg. He must 
sleep among thistles. He must wear the hard grave- 
stones with kneeling. He must swing the thorny 
scourge over his back. He can know no sweetness 
except in suffering, no tenderness except in grief. 

The young Countess Elizabeth was once one who 
wore the heavy cloak and trod the thorny paths. 
Her heart accused her of sin. It longed for pain as 
one wearied longs for a warm bath. Dire disaster 
she brought down on herself while she descended 
rejoicing into the night of suffering. 

Her husband, the young count with the old-man's 
head, came home to Borg the morning after the 
night when the mill and smithy at Ekeby were de- 


stroyed by the spring flood. He had hardly arrived 
before Countess Marta had him summoned in to her 
and told him wonderful things. 

" Your wife was out last night, Henrik. She was 
gone many hours. She came home with a man. I 
heard how he said good-night to her. I know too 
who he is. I heard botli when she went and when 
she came. She is deceiving you. Henrik. She is 
deceiving you, the hypocritical creature, who hangs 
knitted curtains in all the windows only to cause me 
discomfort. She has never loved you, my poor boy. 
Her father only wanted to have her well married. 
She took you to be provided for." 

She managed her affair so well that Count Henrik 
became furious. He wished to get a divorce. He 
wished to send his wife home to her father. 

" No, my friend," said Countess Marta, " in that 
way she would be quite given over to evil. She is 
spoiled and badly brought up. But let me take 
her in hand, let me lead her to the path of duty." 

And the count called in his countess to tell her 
that she now was to obey his mother in everything. 

Many angry words the young man let the young 
woman hear. He stretched his hands to heaven and 
accused it of having let his name be dragged in the 
dirt by a shameless woman. He shook his clenched 
fist before her face and asked her what punishment 
she thought great enough for such a crime as hers. 

She was not at all afraid. She thought that she 
had done right. She said that she had already 
caught a serious cold, and that might be punish- 
ment enough. 

"Elizabeth," says Countess Marta, "this is not a 

atter Jo joke about." 


** We two," answers the young woman, " have never 
been able to agree about the right time to joke and 
to be serious." 

" But you ought to understand, Elizabeth, that no 
honorable woman leaves her home to roam about in 
the middle of the night with a known adventurer." 

Then Elizabeth Dohna saw that her mother-in-law 
meant her ruin. She saw that she must fight to the 
last gasp, lest Countess Marta should succeed in draw- 
ing down upon her a terrible misfortune. 

" Henrik," she begs, " do not let your mother 
come between us ! Let me tell you how it all hap- 
pened. You are just, you will not condemn me un- 
heard. Let me tell you all, and you will see that I 
only acted as you have taught me." 

The count nodded a silent consent, and Countess 
Elizabeth told how she had come to drive Gosta Ber- 
ling into the evil way. She told of everything which 
had happened in the little blue cabinet, and how she 
had felt herself driven by her conscience to go and 
save him she had wronged. ** I had no right to judge 
him," she said, " and my husband has himself taught 
me that no sacrifice is too great when one will make 
amends for a wrong. Is it not so, Henrik? " 

The count turned to his mother. 

**What has my mother to say about this?" he 
asked. His little body was now quite stiff with dig- 
nity, and his high, narrow forehead lay in majestic 

" I," answered the countess, — "I say that Anna 
Stjarnhok is a clever girl, and she knew what she was 
doing when she told Elizabeth that story." 

** You are pleased to misunderstand me," said the 
count. "I ask what you think of this story. Has 


Countess Marta Dohna tried to persuade her daugh- 
ter, my sister, to marry a dismissed priest? " 

Countess Marta was silent an instant. Alas, that 
Henrik, so stupid, so stupid ! Now he was quite on 
the wrong track. Her hound was pursuing the hunter 
himself and letting the hare get away. But if Marta 
Dohna was without an answer for an instant, it was 
not longer. 

** Dear friend," she said with a shrug, " there is a 
reason for letting all those old stories about that un- 
happy man rest, — the same reason which makes me 
beg you to suppress all public scandal. It is most 
probable that he has perished in the night." 

She spoke in a gentle, commiserating tone, but 
there was not a word of truth in what she said. 

" Elizabeth has slept late to-day and therefore has 
not heard that people have already been sent out 
on to the lake to look for Herr Berling. He has not 
returned to Ekeby, and they fear that he has droAvned. 
The ice broke up this morning. See, the storm has 
split it into a thousand pieces." 

Countess Elizabeth looked out. The lake was al- 
most open. 

Then in despair she threw herself on her knees 
before her husband and confession rushed from her 
lips. She had wished to escape God's justice. She 
had lied and dissembled. She had thrown the white 
mantle of innocence over her. 

'* Condemn me, turn me out ! I have loved him. 
Be in no doubt but that I have loved him ! I tear 
my hair, I rend my clothes with grief. I do not care 
for anything when he is dead. I do not care to shield 
myself. You shall know the whole truth. My 
heart's love I have taken from my husband and given 


to a stranger. Oh, I am one of them whom a for- 
bidden love has tempted.*' 

You desperate young thing, lie there at your judges' 
feet and tell them all ! Welcome, martyrdom ! Wel- 
come, disgrace ! Welcome ! Oh, how shall you bring 
the bolt of heaven down on your young head ! 

Tell your husband how frightened you were when 
the pain came over you, might>^ and irresistible, how 
you shuddered for your heart's wretchedness. You 
would rather have met the ghosts of the graveyard 
than the demons in your own soul. 

Tell them how you felt yourself unworthy to 
tread the earth. With prayers and tears you have 

" O God, save me ! O Son of God, caster out of 
devils, save me ! " you have prayed. 

Tell them how you thought it best to conceal it 
all. No one should know your wretchedness. You 
thought that it was God's pleasure to have it so. 
You thought, too, that you went in God's ways when 
you wished to save the man you loved. He knew 
nothing of your love. He must not be lost for your 
sake. Did you know what was right? Did you know 
what was wrong? God alone knew it, and he had 
passed sentence upon you. He had struck down your 
heart's idol. He had led you on to the great, healing 
way of penitence. 

Tell them that you know that salvation is not to be 
found in concealment. Devils love darkness. Let 
your judges' hands close on the scourge ! The pun- 
ishment shall fall like soothing balm on the wounds of 
sin. Your heart longs for suffering. 

Tell them all that, while you kneel on the floor and 
wring your hands in fierce sorrow, speaking in the 


wild accents of despair, with a shrill laugh greeting 
the thought of punishment and dishonor, until at last 
your husband seizes you and drags you up from the 

" Conduct yourself as it behooves a Countess Dohna, 
or I must ask my mother to chastise you like a child." 

" Do with me what you will ! " 

Then the count pronounced his sentence : — 

** My mother has interceded for you. Therefore 
you may stay in my house. But hereafter it is she 
who commands, and you who obey." 

See the way of the penitent ! The young countess 
has become the most humble of servants. How long? 
Oh, how long? 

How long shall a proud heart be able to bend? 
How long can impatient lips keep silent; how long 
a passionate hand be held back? 

Sweet is the misery of humiliation. When the 
back aches from the heavy work the heart is at 
peace. To one who sleeps a few short hours on a 
hard bed of straw, sleep comes uncalled. 

Let the older woman change herself into an evil 
spirit to torture the younger. She thanks her bene- 
factress. As yet the evil is not dead in her. Hunt 
her up at four o'clock every morning ! Impose on 
the inexperienced workwoman an unreasonable day*s 
work at the heavy weaving-loom ! It is well. The 
penitent has perhaps not strength enough to swing 
the scourge with the required force. 

When the time for the great spring washing comes,^ 
Countess Marta has her stand at the tub in the wash- 
house. She comes herself to oversee her work. 


^ In the country, in Sweden, they wash twice a year, in spring and 
autumn. 18 


" The water is too cold in your tub," she says, and 
takes boiling water from a kettle and pours it over 
her bare arms. 

The day is cold, the washerwomen have to stand 
by the lake and rinse out the clothes. Squalls rush 
by and drench them with sleet. Dripping wet and 
heavy as lead are the washerwomen's skirts. 

Hard is the work with the wooden clapper. The 
blood bursts from the delicate nails. 

But Countess Elizabeth does not complain. Praised 
be the goodness of God ! The scourge's thorny knots 
fall softly, as if they were rose-leaves, on the penitent's 

The young woman soon hears that Gosta Berling 
is alive. Her mother-in-law had only wanted to 
cheat her into a confession. Well, what of that? 
See the hand of God ! He had won over the sinner 
to the path of atonement. 

She grieves for only one thing. How shall it be 
with her mother-in-law, whose heart God for her 
sake has hardened? Ah, he will judge her mildly. 
She must show anger to help the sinner to win back 
God's love. 

She did not know that often a soul that has tried all 
other pleasures turns to delight in cruelty. In the 
suffering of animals and men, weakened emotions find 
a source of joy. 

The older woman is not conscious of any malice. 
She thinks she is only correcting a wanton wife. So 
she lies awake sometimes at night and broods over 
new methods of torture. 

One evening she goes through the house and has 
the countess light her with a candle. She carries it 
in her hand without a candle-stick. 


" The candle is burned out," says the young woman. 

" When there is an end to the candle, the candle- 
stick must burn," answers Countess Marta. 

And they go on, until the reeking wick goes out in 
the scorched hand. 

But that is childishness. There are tortures for 
the soul which are greater than any suffering of the 
body. Countess Marta invites guests and makes the 
mistress of the house herself wait on them at her 
own table. 

That is the penitent's great day. Strangers shall 
see her in her humiliation. They shall see that she 
is no longer worthy to sit at her husband's table. 
Oh, with what scorn their cold eyes will rest on her ! 

Worse, much worse it is. Not an eye meets hers* 
Everybody at the table sits silent and depressed, 
men and women equally out of spirits. 

But she gathers it all to lay it like coals of fire on 
her head. Is her sin so dreadful? Is it a disgrace 
to be near her? 

Then temptation comes. Anna Stjarnhok, who 
has been her friend, and the judge at Munkerud, 
Anna's neighbor at the table, take hold of her when 
she comes, snatch the dish from her, push up a chair, 
and will not let her escape. 

" Sit there, child, sit there ! " says the judge. 
"You have done no wrong." 

And with one voice all the guests declare that if 
she does not sit down at the table, they must all go. 
They are no executioners. They will not do Marta 
Dohna's bidding. They are not so easily deceived 
as that sheep-like count. 

" Oh, good gentlemen ! Oh, beloved friends ! Do 
not be so charitable. You force me to cry out my 


sin. There is some one whom I have loved too 

** Child, you do not know what sin is. You do 
not understand how guiltless you are. Gosta Berling 
did not even know that you liked him. Take your 
proper place in your home! You have done no 

They keep up her courage for a while and are 
themselves suddenly gay as children. Laughter and 
jests ring about the board. 

These impetuous, emotional people, they are so 
good ; but still they are sent by the tempter. They 
want to make her think that she is a martyr, and 
openly scoff at Countess Marta as if she were a 
witch. But they do not understand. They do not 
know how the soul longs for purity, nor how the peni- 
tent is driven by his own heart to expose himself to 
the stones of the way and the heat of the sun. 

Sometimes Countess Marta forces her to sit the 
whole day long quietly in the bay window, and then 
she tells her endless stories of Gosta Berling, priest 
and adventurer. If her memory does not hold out, 
she romances, only to contrive that his name the 
whole day shall sound in the young woman's ears. 
That is what she fears most. On those days she 
feels that her penance will never end. Her love will 
not die. She thinks that she herself will die before it. 
Her strength begins to give way. She is often very ill. 

" But where is your hero tarrying? " asks the 
countess, spitefully. " From day to day I have ex- 
pected him at the head of the pensioners. Why does 
he not take Borg by storm, set you up on a throne, 
and throw me and your husband, bound, into a dun- 
geon cell? Are you already forgotten?** 



She is almost ready to defend him and say that she 
herself had forbidden him to give her any help. But 
no, it is best to be silent, to be silent and to suffer. 

Day by day she is more and more consumed by 
the fire of irritation. She has incessant fever and is 
so weak that she can scarcely hold herself up. She 
longs to die. Life's strongest forces are subdued. 
Love and joy do not dare to move. She no longer 
fears pain. 



It is as if her husband no longer knew that she 

listed. He sits shut up in his room almost the 
whole day and studies indecipherable manuscripts 
and essays in old, stained print. 

He reads charters of nobility on parchment, from 
which the seal of Sweden hangs, large and potent, 
stamped in red wax and kept in a turned wooden box. 
He examines old coats of arms with lilies on a white 
field and griffins on a blue. Such things he under- 
stands, and such he interprets with ease. And he 
reads over and over again speeches and obituary 
notices of the noble counts Dohna, where their ex- 
ploits are compared to those of the heroes of Israel 
and the gods of Greece. 

Those old things have always given him pleasure. 
But he does not trouble himself to think a second 
time of his young wife. 

Countess Marta has said a word which killed the 
in him: "She took you for your money." No 
can bear to hear such a thing. It quenches all 
love. Now it was quite one to him what happened 
to the young woman. If his mother could bring her 
to the path of duty, so much the better, Count Hen- 
rik had much admiration for his mother. 


This misery went on for a month. Still it was not 
such a stormy and agitated time as it may sound 
when it is all compressed into a few written pages. 
Countess Elizabeth was always outwardly calm. Once 
only, when she heard that Gosta Berling might be 
dead, emotion overcame her. 

But her grief was so great that she had not been 
able to preserve her love for her husband that she 
would probably have let Countess Marta torture her 
to death, if her old housekeeper had not spoken to 
her one evening. 

"You must speak to the count, countess," she 
said. ** Good heavens, you are such a child ! You 
do not perhaps know yourself, countess, what you 
have to expect; but I see well enough what the 
matter is." 

But that was just what she could not say to her hus- 
band, while he cherished such a black suspicion of her. 

That night she dressed herself quietly, and went out. 
She wore an ordinary peasant-girFs dress, and had a 
bundle in her hand. She meant to run away from 
her home and never come back. 

She did not go to escape pain and suffering. But 
now she believed that God had given her a sign that 
she might go, that she must preserve her body's 
health and strength. 

She did not turn to the west across the lake, for 
there lived one whom she loved very dearly ; nor did 
she go to the north, for there many of her friends 
lived ; nor towards the south, for, far, far to the south 
lay her father's home, and she did not wish to come a 
step nearer ; but to the east she went, for there she 
knew she had no home, no beloved friend, no acquaint- 
ance, no help nor comfort. 


She did not go with a light step, for she thought 
that she had not yet appeased God. But still she 
was glad that she hereafter might bear the burden of 
her sin among strangers. Their indifferent glances 
should rest on her, soothing as cold steel laid on a 
swollen limb. 

She meant to continue her wandering until she 
found a lowly cottage at the edge of the wood, where 
no one should know her. **You can see what has 
happened to me, and my parents have turned me out," 
she meant to say. " Let me have food and a roof 
over my head here, until I can earn my bread. I am 
not without money." 

So she went on in the bright June night, for the 
month of May had passed during her suffering. Alas, 
the month of May, that fair time when the birches 
mingle their pale green with the darkness of the pine 
forest, and when the south-wind comes again satiated 
with warmth. 

Ah, May, you dear, bright month, have you ever 
seen a child who is sitting on its mother's knee lis- 
tening to fairy stories ? As long as the child is told of 
cruel giants and of the bitter suffering of beautiful 
princesses, it holds its head up and its eyes open ; 
but if the mother begins to speak of happiness and 
sunshine, the little one closes its eyes and falls asleep 
with its head against her breast. 

And see, fair month of May, such a child am I too. 
Others may listen to tales of flowers and sunshine ; 
but for myself I choose the dark nights, full of visions 
and adventures, bitter destinies, sorrowful sufferings 
of wild hearts. 




Spring had come, and the iron from all the mines in 
Varmland was to be sent to Gothenburg. 

But at Ekeby they had no iron to send. In the 
autumn there had been a scarcity of water, in the 
spring the pensioners had been in power. 

In their time strong, bitter ale foamed down the 
broad granite slope of Bjorksjo falls, and Lofven's 
long lake was filled not with water, but with brandy. 
In their time no iron was brought to the forge, the 
smiths stood in shirt-sleeves and clogs by the hearth 
and turned enormous roasts on long spits, while the 
boys on long tongs held larded capons over the coals. 
In those days they slept on the carpenter's bench and 
played cards on the anvil. In those days no iron 
was forged. 

But the spring came and in the wholesale office in 
Gothenburg they began to expect the iron from 
Ekeby. They looked up the contract made with the 
major and his wife, where there were promiises of the 
delivery of many hundreds of tons. 

But what did the pensioners care for the contract? 
They thought of pleasure and fiddling and feasting. 

Iron came from Stomne, iron from Solje. From 
Uddeholm it came, and from Munkfors, and from all of 
the many mines. But where is the iron from Ekeby? 




Is Ekeby no longer the chief of Varmland's iron 
works? Does no one watch over the honor of the 
old estate? Like ashes for the wind it is left in the 
hands of shiftless pensioners. 

Well, but if the Ekeby hammers have rested, they 
must have worked at our six other estates. There 

I must be there enough and more than enough iron. 
I So Gbsta Berling sets out to talk with the managers 
wf the six mines. 

He travelled ten miles or so to the north, till he 
came to Lotafors. It is a pretty place, there can be 
no doubt of that. The upper Lofven lies spread out 
before it and close behind it lias Gurlitta cliff, with 
steeply rising top and a look of wildness and romance 
which well suits an old mountain. But the smithy, 
that is not as it ought to be: the swing-wheel is 
broken, and has been so a whole year. 
Well, why has it not been mended?" 
Tlie carpenter, my dear friend, the carpenter, the 
ly one in the whole district who could mend it, 
been busy somewhere else. We have not been 
able to forge a single ton." 

" Why did you not send after the carpenter?" 
" Send after ! As if we had not sent after him 
every day, but be has not been able to come. He 
was busy building bowling-alleys and summer-houses 
at Ekeby." 

He goe*further to the north to Bjornidet. Also a 
beautiful spot, but iron, is there any iron? 

No, of course not. They had had no coal, and 
they had not been able to get any money from Ekeby 
to pay charcoal-burners and teamsters. There had 
been no work all winter. 

Then Gosta turns to the south. He comes to Hin, 


and to Lofstafors, far in in the woods, but he fares 
no better there. Nowhere have they iron, and every- 
where it seems to be the pensioners' own fault that 
such is the case. 

So Gosta turns back to Ekeby, and the pensioners 
with gloomy looks take into consideration the fifty 
tons or so, which are in stock, and their heads are 
weighed down with grief, for they hear how all nature 
sneers at Ekeby, and they think that the ground 
shakes with sobs, that the trees threaten them with 
angry gestures, and that the grass and weeds lament 
that the honor of Ekeby is gone. 

But why so many words and so much perplexity? 
There is the iron from Ekeby. 

There it is, loaded on barges on the Klar River, 
ready to sail down the stream, ready to be weighed 
at Karlstad, ready to be conveyed to Gothenburg. 
So it is saved, the honor of Ekeby. 

But how is it possible? At Ekeby there was not 
more than fifty tons of iron, at the six other mines 
there was no iron at all. How is it possible that full- 
loaded barges shall now carry such an enormous 
amount of iron to the scales at Karlstad ? Yes, one 
may well ask the pensioners. 

The pensioners are themselves on board the heavy, 
ugly vessels ; they mean to escort the iron from Ekeby 
to Gothenburg. They are going to do everj^hing 
for their dear iron and not forsake it until it is un- 
loaded on the wharf in Gothenburg. They are going 
to load and unload, manage sails and rudder. They 
are the very ones for such an undertaking. Is there 
a shoal in the Klar River or a reef in the Vaner which 
they do not know? 



^Hto ] 

If they love anything in the world, it is the iron on 

those barges. They treat it like the most delicate 

glass, they spread cloths over it. Not a bit may lie 

bare. It is those heavy, gray bars which are going 

retrieve the honor of Ekeby. No stranger may 

it indifferent glances on them. 

None of the pensioners have remained at home. 
Uncle Eberhard has left his desk, and Cousin Chris- 
topher has come out of his corner. No one can hold 
^ack when it is a question of the honor of Ekeby. 
I Every one knows that often in life occur such 
^coincidences as that which now followed. He who 
still can be surprised may wonder that the pensioners 
should be lying with their barges at the ferry over 
the Klar River just on the morning after when 
Countess Elizabeth had started on her wanderings 
towards the east. But it would certainly have been 
more wonderful if the young woman had found no 
help in her need. It now happened that she, who 
had walked the whole night, was coming along the 
highway which led down to the ferry, just as the 
pensioners intended to push off, and they stood and 
looked at her while she talked to the ferryman and 
he untied his boat. She was dressed like a peasant 
girl, and they never guessed who she was. But still 
they stood and stared at her, because there was some- 
thing familiar about her. As she stood and talked to 
the ferryman, a cloud of dust appeared on the high- 
way, and in that cloud of dust they could catch a 
glimpse of a big yellow coach. She knew that it 
was from Borg, that they were out to look for her, 
and that she would now be discovered. She could 
no longer hope to escape in the ferryman's boat, and 

le only hiding-place she saw was the pensioners' 


barges. She rushed down to them without seeing 
who it was on board. And well it was that she did 
not see, for otherwise she would rather have thrown 
herself under the horses' feet than have taken her 
flight thither. 

When she came on board she only screamed, 
" Hide me, hide me ! " And then she tripped and fell 
on the pile of iron. But the pensioners bade her be 
calm. They pushed off hurriedly from the land, so that 
the barge came out into the current and bore down 
towards Karlstad, just as the coach reached the ferry. 

In the carriage sat Count Henrik and Countess 
Marta. The count ran forward to ask the ferryman 
if he had seen his countess. But as Count Henrik 
was a little embarrassed to have to ask about a run- 
away wife, he only said : — 

" Something has been lost ! " 

" Really? " said the ferryman. 

" Something has been lost. I ask if you have seen 
anything? " 

*' What are you asking about? " 

"Yes, it makes no difference, but something has 
been lost. I ask if you have ferried anything over 
the river to-day?" 

By these means he could find out nothing, and 
Countess Marta had to go and speak to the man. 
She knew in a minute, that she whom they sought 
was on board one of the heavily gliding barges. 

" Who are the people on those barges? " 

" Oh, they are the pensioners, as we call them." 

** Ah," says the countess. " Yes, then your wife 
is in good keeping, Henrik. We might as well go 
straight home." 

On the barge there was no such great joy as 




Countess Marta believed. As long as the yellow 
coach was in sight, the frightened young woman 
shrank together on the load motionless and silent, 
staring at the shore. 

Probably she first recognized the pensioners when 
she had seen the yellow coach drive away. She 
started up. It was as if she wanted to escape again, 
but she was stopped by the one standing nearest, and 
she sank back on the load with a faint moan. 

The pensioners dared not speak to her nor ask her 
any questions. She looked as ifon the verge of madness. 

Their careless heads began verily to be heavy with 
responsibility. This iron was already a heavy load for 
unaccustomed shoulders, and now they had to watch 
over a young, high-born lady, who had run away 
from her husband. 

When they had met this young woman at the balls 
of the winter, one and another of them had thought 
of a little sister whom he had once loved. When he 
played and romped with that sister he needed to 
handle her carefully, and ivhen he talked with her he 
lad learned to be careful not to use bad words. If 

strange boy had chased her too wildly in their play 
ir had sung coarse songs for her, he had thrown 
himself on him with boundless fury and almost 
pounded the life out of him, for his little sister should 
never hear anything bad nor suffer any pain nor ever 
be met with anger and hate. 

Countess Elizabeth had been like a joyous sister 
to them all. When she had laid her little hands in 
their hard fists, it had been as if she had said : " Feel 
how fragile I am, but you are my big brother; you 
shall protect me both from others and from your- 

"f." And they had been courtly knights as long 
they had been with her. 


Now the pensioners looked upon her with terror, 
and did not quite recognize her. She was worn and 
thin, her neck was without roundness, her face trans- 
parent She must have struck herself during her 
wanderings, for from a little wound on her temple 
blood was trickling, and her curly, light hair, which 
shaded her brow, was sticky with it. Her dress was 
soiled from her long walk on the wet paths, and her 
shoes were muddy. The pensioners had a dreadful 
feeling that this was a stranger. The Countess 
Elizabeth they knew never had such wild, glittering 
eyes. Their poor little sister had been hunted nearly 
to madness. It was as if a soul come down from 
other spaces was struggling with the right soul for 
the mastery of her tortured body. 

But there was no need for them to worry over what 
they should do with her. The old thought soon 
waked in her. Temptation had come to her again. 
God wished to try her once more. See, she is 
among friends ; does she intend to leave the path of 
the penitent? 

She rises and cries that she must go. 

The pensioners try to calm her. They told her 
that she was safe. They would protect her from all 

She only begged to be allowed to get into the little 
boat, which was towed after the barge, and row to 
the land, to continue her wandering. 

But they could not let her go. What would 
become of her? It was better to remain with them. 
They were only poor old men, but they would surely 
find some way to help her. 

Then she wrung her hands and begged them to let 
her go. But they could not grant her prayer. She 


was so exhausted and weak that they thought that 
she would die by the roadside. 

Gosta Berling stood a short distance away and 
looked down into the water. Perhaps the young 
woman would not wish to see him. He did not 
know it, but his thoughts played and smiled. " No- 
body knows where she is," he thought ; ** we can take 
her with us to Ekeby. We will keep her hidden there, 
we pensioners, and we will be good to her. She shall 
be our queen, our mistress, but no one shall know 
that she is there. We will guard her so well, so well. 
She perhaps would be happy with us ; she would be 
cherished like a daughter by all the old men." 

He had never dared to ask himself if he loved her. 
She could not be his without sin, and he would not 
drag her down to anything low and wretched, that 
he knew. But to have her concealed at Ekeby and 
to be good to her after others had been cruel, and to 
let her. enjoy everything pleasant in life, ah, what a 
dream, what a blissful dream ! 

But he wakened out of it, for the young countess 
was in dire distress, and her words had the piercing 
accents of despair. She had thrown herself upon her 
knees in the midst of the pensioners and begged them 
to be allowed to go. 

" God has not yet pardoned me," she cried. " Let 
me go ! " 

Gosta saw that none of the others meant to obey 
her, and understood that he must do it. He, who 
loved her, must do it 

He felt a difficulty in walking, as if his every limb 
resisted his will, but he dragged himself to her and 
said that he would take her on shore. 

She rose instantly. He lifted her down into the 


boat and rowed her to the east shore. He landed at 
a little pathway and helped her out of the boat. 

" What is to become of you, countess? '* he said. 

She lifted her finger solemnly and pointed towards 

" If you are in need, countess — " 

He could not speak, his voice failed him, but she 
understood him and answered : — 

" I will send you word when I need you." 

" I would have liked to protect you from all evil/' 
he said. 

She gave him her hand in farewell, and he was not 
able to say anything more. Her hand lay cold and 
limp in his. 

She was not conscious of anything but those inward 
voices which forced her to go among strangers. She 
hardly knew that it was the man she loved whom she 
now left. 

So he let her go and rowed out to the pensioners 
again. When he came up on the barge he was trem- 
bling with fatigue and seemed exhausted and faint. He 
had done the hardest work of his life, it seemed to 

For the few days he kept up his courage, until the 
honor of Ekeby was saved. He brought the iron to 
the weighing-ofBce on Kanike point ; then for a long 
time he lost all strength and love of life. 

The pensioners noticed no change in him as long 
as they were on board. He strained every nerve to 
keep his hold on gayety and carelessness, for it was by 
gayety and carelessness that the honor of Ekeby was 
to be saved. How should their venture at the weigh- 
ing-office succeed if they came with anxious faces 
and dejected hearts? 


If what rumor says is true, that the pensioners that 
time had more sand than iron on their barges, if it 
is true that they kept bringing up and down the same 
bars to the weighing-office at Kanike point, until the 
many hundred tons were weighed ; if it is true that 
all that could happen because the keeper of the 
public scales and his men were so well entertained 
out of the hampers and wine cases brought from 
Ekeby, one must know that they had to be gay on 
the iron barges. 

Who can know the truth now? But if it was so, it is 
certain that Gosta Berling had no time to grieve. Of 
the joy of adventure and danger he felt nothing. As 
soon as he dared, he sank into a condition of despair. 

As soon as the pensioners had got their certificate 
of weighing, they loaded their iron on a bark. It 
was generally the custom that the captain of the 
vessel took charge of the load to Gothenburg, and 
the Varmland mines had no more responsibility for 
their iron when they had got their certificate that the 
consignment was filled. But the pensioners would 
do nothing by halves, they were going to take the 
iron all the way to Gothenburg. 

On the way they met with misfortune. A .storm 
broke out in the night, the vessel was disabled, drove 
on a reef, and sank with all her precious load. But if 
one saw the matter rightly, what did it matter if the 

(iron was lost .' The honor of Ekeby was saved. The 
iron had been weighed at the weighing-office at Kanike 
point. And even if the major had to sit down and 
in a curt letter inform the merchants in the big town 
that he would not have their money, as tliey had not 
got his iron, that made no difference either. Ekeby 
I Was so rich, and its honor was saved. 


But if the harbors and locks, if the mines and 
charcoal-kilns, if the schooners and barges begin to 
whisper of strange things? If a gentle murmur goes 
through the forests that the journey was a fraud ? If 
it is asserted through the whole of Varmland that 
there were never more than fifty miserable tons on 
the barges and that the shipwreck was arranged in- 
tentionally? A bold exploit had been carried out, 
and a real pensioner prank accomplished. By such 
things the honor of the old estate is not blemished. 

But it happened so long ago now. It is quite pos- 
"sible that the pensioners bought the iron or that they 
found it in some hitherto unknown storehouse. The 
truth will never be made clear in the matter. The 
keeper of the scales will never listen to any tales of 
fraud, and he ought to know. 

When the pensioners reached home they heard 
news. Count Dohna's marriage was to be annulled. 
The count had sent his steward to Italy to get proofs 
that the marriage had not been legal. He had come 
back late in the summer with satisfactory reports. 
What these were, — well, that I do not know with cer- 
tainty. One must treat old tales with care ; they are 
like faded roses. They easily drop their petals if 
one comes too near to them. People say that the 
ceremony in Italy had not been performed by a real 
priest. I do not know, but it certainly is true that 
the marriage between Count Dohna and Elizabeth 
von Thurn was declared at the court at Borg never 
to have been any marriage. 

Of this the young woman knew nothing. She 
lived among peasants in some out-of-the-way place, 
if she was living. 


lilliecrona's home 

Among the pensioners was one whom I have often 
mentioned as a great musician. He was a tall, 
heavily built man, with a big head and bushy, black- 
hair. He was certainly not more than forty years old 
at that time, biit he had an ugly, large-featured face 
and a pompous manner. This made many think 
him old. He was a good man, but low-spirited. 

One afternoon he took his violin under his arm 
and went away from Ekeby. He ^aid no farewell 
to any one, although he never meant to return. He 
loathed the life there ever since he had seen Coun- 
tess Elizabeth in her trouble. He walked without 
resting the whole evening and the whole night, until 
at early sunrise he came to a little farm, called 
Lofdala, which belonged to him. 

It was so early that nobody was as yet awake. 
Lilliecrona sat down on the green bench outside the 
main building and looked at his estate. A more 
beautiful place did not exist The lawn in front of 
the house lay in a gentle slope and was covered with 
fine, light-green grass. There never was such a lawn. 
The sheep were allowed to graze there and the 
children to romp there in their games, but it was 
always just as even and green. The scythe never 
passed over it, but at least once a week the mistress 


of the house had all sticks and straws and dry leaves 
swept from the fresh grass. He looked at the gravel 
walk in front of the house and suddenly drew his feet 
back. The children had late in the evening raked 
it, and his big feet had done terrible harm to the fine 
work. Think how everything grew there. The six 
mountain-ashes which guarded the place were high 
as beeches and wide-spreading as oaks. Such trees 
had never been seen before. They were beauti- 
ful with their thick trunks covered with yellow 
lichens, and with big, white flower-clusters sticking 
out from the dark foliage. It made him think of 
the sky and its stars. It was indeed wonderful how 
the trees grew there. There stood an old willow, so 
thick that the arms of two men could not meet about 
it. It was now rotten and hollow, and the lightning 
had taken the top off it, but it would not die. Every 
spring a cluster of green shoots came up out of the 
shattered trunk to show that it was alive. That haw- 
thorn by the east gable had become such a big tree 
that it overshadowed the whole house. The roof 
was white with its dropping petals, for the hawthorn 
had already blossomed. And the birches which 
stood in small clumps here and there in the pastures, 
they certainly had found their paradise on his farm. 
They developed there in so many different growths, 
as if they had meant to imitate all other trees. One 
was like a linden, thick and leafy with a wide-spread- 
ing arch, another stood close and tall like a poplar, 
and a third drooped its branches like a weeping- 
willow. No one was like another, and they were all 

Then he rose and went round the house. There 
lay the garden, so wonderfully beautiful that he had 



slop and draw a long breath. The apple-trees 
: in bloom. Yes, of course he knew that He 
seen it on all the other farms; but in no other 
'lace did they bloom as they did in that garden, 
■here he had seen them blossom since he was a 
He walked with clasped hands and careful 
step up and down the gravel path. The ground 
was white, and the trees were white, here and there 
with a touch of pink. He had never seen anything 
beautiful. He knew every tree, as one knows 
's brothers and sisters and playmates. The astra- 
ihan trees were quite white, also the winter fruit- 
trees. But the russet blossoms were pink, and the 
crab-apple almost red. The most beautiful was the 
old wild apple-tree, whose little, bitter apples nobody 
could eat. It was not stingy with its blossoms; it 
looked like a great snow-drift in the morning light. 

For remember that it was early in the morning ! 
The dew made every leaf shine, all dust was washed 
tpway. Behind the forest-clad hills, close under 
Which the farm lay, came the first rays of the sun. 
It was as if the tops of the pines had been set on 
fire by them. Over the clover meadows, over rye 
and corn fields, and over the sprouting oat-shoots, lay 
the lightest of mists, like a thin veil, and the shadows 
fell sharp as in moonlight. 

He stood and looked at the big vegetable beds 
between the paths. He knows that mistress and 
maids have been at work here. They have dug, 
raked, pulled up weeds and turned the earth, until it 
has become fine and light. After they have made 
the beds even and the edges straight they have taken 
tapes and pegs and marked out rows and squares. 
they have sowed and set out, until all the rows 


and squares have been filled. And the children have 
been with them and have been so happy and eager 
to be allowed to help, although it has been hard 
work for them to stand bent and stretch their arms 
out over the broad beds. And of great assistance 
have they been, as any one can understand. 

Now what they had sown began to come up. 

God bless them ! they stood there so bravely, both 
peas and beans with their two thick cotyledons ; and 
how thick and nice had both carrots and beets come 
up ! The funniest of all were the little crinkled parsley 
leaves, which lifted a little earth above them and 
played bopeep with life as yet 

And here was a little bed where the lines did not 
go so evenly and where the small squares seemed to 
be an experiment map of everything which could be 
set or sowed. That was the children's garden. 

And Lilliecrona put his violin hastily up to his 
chin and began to play. The birds began to sing in 
the big shrubbery which protected the garden from 
the north wind. It was not possible for anything 
gifted with voice to be silent, so glorious was the 
morning. The fiddle-bow moved quite of itself. 

Lilliecrona walked up and down the paths and 
played. " No/' he thought, " there is no more beauti- 
ful place." What was Ekeby compared to Lofdala. 
His home had a thatched roof and was only one story 
high. It lay at the edge of the wood, with the moun- 
tain above it and the long valley below it. There 
was nothing wonderful about it ; there was no lake 
there, no water-fall, no park, but it was beautiful just 
the same. It was beautiful because it was a good, 
peaceful home. Life was easy to live there. Every- 
thing which in other places caused bitterness and 


hate was there smoothed away with gentleness. So 
shall it be in a home. 

Within, in the house, the mistress lies and sleeps in 
a room which opens on the garden. She wakes sud- 
denly and listens, but she does not move. She lies 
smiling and listening. Then the musician comes 
nearer and nearer, and at last it sounds as if he had 
stopped under her window. It is indeed not the first 
time she has heard the violin under her window. He 
was in the habit of coming so, her husband, when they 
had done something unusually wild there at Ekeby. 

He stands there and confesses and begs for forgive- 
ness. He describes to her the dark powers which 
tempt him away from what he loves best, — from her 
and the children. But he loves them. Oh, of course 
he loves them ! 

While he plays she gets up and puts on her clothes 
without quite knowing what she is doing. She is so 
taken up with his playing. 

" It is not luxury and good cheer, which tempt me 
away," he plays " not love for other women, nor 
glory, but life's seductive changes : its sweetness, its 
bitterness, its riches, I must feel about me. But now 
I have had enough of it, now I am tired and satisfied. 
I shall never again leave my home. Forgive me ; have 
mercy upon me ! " 

Then she draws aside the curtain and opens the 
window, and he sees her beautiful, kind face. 

She is good, and she is wise. Her glances bring 
blessings like the sun's on everything they meet. 
She directs and tends. Where she is, everything 
grows and flourishes. She bears happiness within her. 

He swings himself up on to the window-sill to her, 
and is happy as a young lover. 


Then he lifts her out into the garden and carries 
her down under the apple-trees. There he explains 
for her how beautiful everything is, and shows her the 
vegetable beds and the children's garden and the 
funny little parsley leaves. 

When the children awake, there is joy and rapture 
that father has come. They take possession of him. 
He must see all that is new and wonderful : the little 
nail-manufactory which pounds away in the brook, the 
bird's-nest in the willow, and the little minnows in the 
pond, which swim in thousands near the surface of 
the water. 

Then father, mother, and children take a long walk 
in the fields. He wanta to see how close the rye 
stands, how the clover is growing, and how the pota- 
toes are beginning to poke up their crumpled leaves. 

He must see the cows when they come in from the 
pasture, visit the new-comers in the barn and sheep- 
house, look for eggs, and give all the horses sugar. 

The children hang at his heels the whole day. No 
lessons, no work ; only to wander about with their 
father ! 

In the evening he plays polkas for them, and all 
day he has been such a good comrade and playfellow 
that they fall asleep with a pious prayer that father 
may always stay with them. 

He stays eight long days, and is joyous as a boy 
the whole time. He could stand it no longer, it was 
too much happiness for him. Ekeby was a thousand 
times worse, but Ekeby lay in the midst of the whirl 
of events. Oh, how much there was there to dream 
of and to play of! How could he live separated from 
the pensioners* deeds, and from Lofven's long lake, 
about which adventure's wild chase rushed onward? 


On his own estate everything went on in its calm, 
wonted way. Everything flourished and grew under 
the gentle mistress's care. Every one was happy there. 
Everything which anywhere else could have caused 
discord and bitterness passed over there without 
complaints or pain. Everything was as it should be. 
If now the master of the house longed to live as pen- 
sioner at Ekeby, what then? Does it help to com- 
plain of heaven's sun because it disappears every 
evening in the west, and leaves the earth in darkness? 

What is so unconquerable as submission? What 
is so certain of victory as patience? 




The witch of Dovre walks on Lofven's shores. 
People have seen her there, little and bent, in a 
leather skirt and a belt of silver plates. Why has she 
come out of the wolf-holes to a human world? What 
does the old creature of the mountains want in the 
green of the valley? 

She comes begging. She is mean, greedy for gifts, 
although she is so rich. In the clefts of the mountain 
she hides heavy bars of white silver ; and in the rich 
meadows far away on the heights feed her great 
flocks of black cattle with golden horns. Still 
she wanders about in birch-bark shoes and greasy 
leather skirt soiled with the dirt of a hundred years. 
She smokes moss in her pipe and begs of the poorest. 
Shame on one who is never grateful, never gets 
enough ! 

She is old. When did the rosy glory of youth dwell 
in that broad face with its brown greasy skin, in the 
flat nose and the small eyes, which gleam in the 
surrounding dirt like coals of fire in gray ashes? 
When did she sit as a young girl on the mountain- 
side and answer with her horn the shepherd-boy's 
love-songs? She has lived several hundred years. 
The oldest do not remember the time when she did 


not wander through the land. Their fathers had 
seen her old when they were young. Nor is she yet 
dead. I who write, myself have seen her. 

She is powerful. She does not bend for any one. 
She can summon the hail, she can guide the light- 
ning. She can lead the herds astray and set wolves 
on the sheep. Little good can §he do, but much 
evil. It is best to be on good terms with her! If 
she should beg for your only goat and a whole pound 
of wool, give it to her ; if you don't the horse will fall, 
or the cottage will burn, or the cow will sicken, or the 
child will die. 

A welcome guest she never is. But it is best to 
meet her with smiling.. lips! Who knows for whose 
sake the bearer of disaster is roaming through the 
valley ? She does not come only to fill her beggar's- 
pouch. Evil omens go with her; the army worm 
shows itself, foxes and owls howl and hoot in 
the twilight, red and black serpents, which spit 
venom, crawl out of the wood up to the very 

Charms can she chant, philters can she brew. She 
knows all herbs. Everybody trembles with fear 
when they see her; but the strong daughter of the 
wilderness goes calmly on her way among them, 
protected by their dread. The exploits of her race 
are not ' forgotten, nor are her own. As the cat 
trusts in its claws, so does she trust in her wisdom 
and in the strength of her divinely inspired prophe- 
cies. No king is more sure of his might than she of 
the kingdom of fear in which she rules. 

The witch of Dovre has wandered through many 
villages. Now she has come to Borg, and does not 
fear to wander up to the castle. She seldom goes to 


the kitchen door. Right up the terrace steps she 
comes. She plants her broad birch-bark shoes on the 
flower-bordered gravel-walks as calmly as if she were 
tramping up mountain paths. 

Countess Marta has just come out on the steps to 
admire the beauty of the June day. Below her two 
maids have stopped on their way to the store-house. 
They have come from the smoke-house, where the 
bacon is being smoked, and are carrying newly cured 
hams on a pole between them. " Will our gracious 
Countess feel and smell ? " say the maids. " Arc the 
hams smoked enough? ** 

Countess Marta, mistress at Borg at that time, leans 
over the railing and looks at the hams, but in the 
same instant the old Finn woman lays her hand on 
one of them. 

The daughter of the mountains is not accustomed 
to beg and pray ! Is it not by her grace that flowers 
thrive and people live } Frost and storm and .floods 
are all in her power to send. Therefore she does 
not need to pray and beg. She lays her hand on 
what she wants, and it is hers. 

Countess Marta, however, knows nothing of the old 
woman's power. 

** Away with you, beggar-woman ! " she says. 

" Give me the ham," says the witch. 

" She is mad," cries the countess. And she orders 
the maids to go to the store-house with their burden. 

The eyes of the old woman flame with rage and 

'* Give me the brown ham," shfe repeats, " or it will 
go ill with you." 

** I would rather give it to the magpies than to 
such as you." 



Then the old woman is shaken by a storm of rage. 
She stretches towards heaven her runic-staff and 
waves it wildly. Her lips utter strange words. Her 
hair stands on end, her eyes shine, her face is 

" You shall be eaten by magpies yourself," she 
screams at last. 

Then she goes, mumbling curses, brandishing her 
stick. She turns towards home. Farther towards 
the south does she not go. She has accomplished her 
errand, for which she had travelled down from the 

Countess Marta remains standing on the steps and 
laughs at her extravagant anger ; but on her lips the 
laugh will soon die away, for there they come. She 
cannot believe her eyes. She thinks that she is 
dreaming, but there they come, the magpies who are 
going to eat her. 

From the park and the garden they swoop down 
on her, magpies by scores, with claws ready to seize 
and bills stretched out to strike. They come with 
wild screams. Black and white wings gleam before 
her eyes. She sees as in delirium behind this 
swarm the magpies of the whole neighborhood 
approaching; the whole heaven is full of black and 
Iwhite wings. In the bright morning sun the metallic 
colors of the feathers glisten. In smaller and 
smaller circles the monsters fly about the countess, 
aiming with beaks and claws at her face and hands. 
She has to escape into the hall and shut the door. 
She leans against it, panting with terror, while the 
screaming magpies circle about outside. 

From that time on she is shut in from the sweet- 
ness and green of the summer and from tht: joy of 


life. For her were only closed rooms and drawn 
curtains \ for her, despair ; for her, terror ; for her, 
confusion, bordering on madness. 

Mad this story too may seem, but it must also be 
true. Hundreds will recognize it and bear witness 
that such is the old tale. 

The birds settled down on the railing and the roof. 
They sat as if they only waited till the countess 
should show herself, to throw themselves upon her. 
They took up their abode in the park and there they 
remained. It was impossible to drive them away. 
It was only worse if they shot them. For one that 
fell, ten came flying. Sometimes great flocks flew 
away to get food, but faithful sentries always re- 
mained behind. And if Countess Marta showed her- 
self, if she looked out of a window or only drew aside 
the curtain for an instant, if she tried to go out on 
the steps, — they came directly. The whole terrible 
swarm whirled up to the house on thundering wings, 
and the countess fled into her inner room. 

She lived in the bedroom beyond the red drawing- 
room. I have often heard the room described, as it 
was during that time of terror, when Borg was be- 
sieged by magpies. Heavy quilts before the doors 
and windows, thick carpets on the floor, softly tread- 
ing, whispering people. 

In the countess's heart dwelt wild terror. Her hair 
turned gray. Her face became wrinkled. She grew 
old in a month. She could not steel her heart to 
doubt of hateful magic. She started up from her 
dreams with wild cries that the magpies were eating 
her. She wept for days over this fate, which she 
could not escape. Shunning people, afraid that the 
swarm of birds should follow on the heels of any one 


coming in, she sat mostly silent with her hands before 
her face, rocking backwards and forwards in her chair, 
low-spirited and depressed in the close air, sometimes 
starting up with cries of lamentation. 

No one's life could be more bitter. Can any one 
help pitying her? 

I have not much more to tell of her now, and what 
I have said has not been good. It is as if my con- 
science smote me. She was good-hearted and cheer- 
ful when she was young, and many merry stories 
about her have gladdened my heart, although there 
has been no space to tell them here. 

But it is so, although that poor wayfarer did not 
know it, that the soul is ever hungry. On frivolity 
and play it cannot live. If it gets no other food, it 
will like a wild beast first tear others to pieces and 
then itself. 

That is the meaning of the story. 




Midsummer was hot then as now when I am writing. 
It was the most beautiful season of the year. It 
was the season when Sintram, the wicked ironmaster 
at Fors, fretted and grieved. He resented the sun's 
triomphal march through the hours of the day, and 
the overthrow of darkness. He raged at the leafy 
dress which clothed the trees, and at the many-colored 
carpet which covered the ground. 

Everything arrayed itself in beauty. The road, 
gray and dusty as it was, had its border of flowers : 
yellow and purple midsummer blossoms, wild parsley, 
and asters. 

When the glory of midsummer lay on the moun- 
tains and the sound of the bells from the church at 
Bro was borne on the quivering air even as far as 
Fors, when the unspeakable stillness of the Sabbath 
day reigned in the land, then he rose in wrath. It 
seemed to him as if God and men dared to forget 
that he existed, and he decided to go to church, he 
too. Those who rejoiced at the summer should see 
him, Sintram, lover of darkness without morning, of 
death without resurrection, of winter without spring. 

He put on his wolfskin coat and shaggy fur gloves. 
He had the red horse harnessed in a sledge, and fas- 
tened bells to the shining horse-collar. Equipped 
as if it were thirty degrees below zero, he drove to 


church. He believed that the grinding under the 
runners was from the severe cold. He believed that 
the white foam on the horse's back was hoarfrost. 
He felt no heat. Cold streamed from him as warmth 
from the sun. 

He drove over the wide plain north of the Bro 
church. Large, rich villages lay near his way, and 
fields of grain, over which singing larks fluttered. 
Never have I heard larks sing as in those fields. 
Often have I wondered how he could shut his ears to 
those hundreds of songsters. 

He had to drive by many things on the way which 
would have enraged him if he had given them a 
glance. He would have seen two bending birches at 
the door of every house, and through open windows 
he would have looked into rooms whose ceilings and 
walls were covered with flowers and green branches. 
The smallest beggar child went on the road with a 
bunch of lilacs in her hand, and every peasant woman 
had a little nosegay stuck in her neckerchief. 

Maypoles with faded flowers and drooping wreaths 
stood in every yard. Round about them the grass 
was trodden down, for the merry dance had whirled 
there through the summer night. 

Below on the Lofven crowded the floats of timber. 
The little white sails were hoisted in honor of the 
day, although no wind filled them, and every mast- 
head bore a green wreath. 

On the many roads which lead to Bro the congre- 
gation came walking. The women were especially 
magnificent in the light summer-dresses, which had 
been made ready just for that day. All were 
dressed in their best 

And the people could not help rejoicing at the 



peace of the day and the rest from daily work, at the 
delicious warmth, the promising harvest, and the wild 
strawberries which were beginning to redden at the 
edge of the road. They noticed the stillness of the 
air and the song of the larks, and said : '' It is plain 
that this is the Lord's day." 

Then Sintram drove up. He swore and swung his 
whip over the straining horse. The sand grated 
horribly under the runners, the sleigh-bells* shrill 
clang drowned the sound of the church bells. His 
brow lay in angry wrinkles under his fur cap. 

The church-goers shuddered and thought they had 
seen the evil one himself. Not even to-day on the 
summer's festival might they forget evil and cold. 
Bitter is the lot of those who wander upon earth. 

The people who stood in the shadow of the church 
or sat on the churchyard wall and waited for the 
beginning of the service, saw him with calm wonder 
when he came up to the church door. The glorious 
day had filled their hearts with joy that they were 
walking the paths of earth and enjoying the sweet- 
ness of existence. Now, when they saw Sintram, 
forebodings of strange disaster came over them. 

Sintram entered the church and sat down in his 
seat, throwing his gloves on the bench, so that the 
rattle of the wolves' claws which were sewed into the 
skin was heard through the church. And several 
women who had already taken their places on the 
front benches fainted when they saw the shaggy form, 
and had to be carried out. 

But no one dared to drive out Sintram. He dis- 
turbed the people's devotions, but he was too much 
feared for any one to venture to order him to leave 
the church. 


In vain the old clergyman spoke of the summer's 
bright festival Nobody listened to him. The peo- 
ple only thought of evil and cold and of the strange 
disaster which the wicked ironmaster announced to 

When it was over, they saw him walk out on to the 
slope of the hill where the Bro church stands. He 
looked down on the Broby Sound and followed it 
with his eyes past the deanery and the three points 
of the west shore out into the Lofven. And they 
saw how he clenched his fist and shook it over the 
sound and its green banks. Then his glance turned 
further south over the lower Lofven to the misty 
shores which seemed to shut in the lake, and north- 
ward it flew miles beyond Gurlitta Cliff up to Bjornidet, 
where the lake began. He looked to the west and 
east, where the long mountains border the valley, and 
he clenched his fist again. And every one felt that 
if he had held a bundle of thunderbolts in his right 
hand, he would have hurled them in wild joy out 
over the peaceful country and spread sorrow and 
death as far as he could. For now he had so accus- 
tomed his heart to evil that he knew no pleasure 
except in suffering. By degrees he had taught him- 
self to love everything ugly and wretched. He was 
more insane than the most violent madman, but that 
no one understood. 

Strange stories went about the land after that day. 
It was said that when the sexton came to shut up the 
church, the bit of the key broke, because a tightly 
folded paper had been stuck in the keyhole. He 
gave it to the dean. It was, as was to be expected, a 
letter meant for a being in the other world. 

People whispered of what had stood there. The 


dean had burnt the paper, but the sexton had looked 
on while the devil's trash burned. The letters had 
shone bright red on a black ground. He could not 
help reading. He read, people said, that Sintram 
wished to lay the country waste as far as the Bro 
church tower was visible. He wished to see the 
forest grow up about the church. He wished to see 
bear and fox living in men's dwellings. The fields 
should lie uncultivated) and neither dog nor cock 
should be heard in the neighborhood. He wished 
to serve his master by causing every man's ruin. 
That was what he promised. 

And the people looked to the future in silent 
despair, for they knew that his power was great, that 
he hated everything living, that he wished to see 
the wilderness spread through the valley, and that 
he would gladly take pestilence or famine or war 
into his service to drive away every one who loved 
good, joy-bringing work. 




When nothing could make Gosta Berling glad, after 
he had helped the young countess to escape, the 
pensioners decided to seek help of the good Madame 
Musica, who is a powerful fairy and consoles many 
who are unhappy. 

So one evening in July they had the doors of the 
big drawing-room at Ekeby opened and the shutters 
taken down. The sun and air were let in, the late 
evening's big, red sun, the cool, mild, steaming air. 

The striped covers were taken off the furniture, the 
piano was opened, and the net about the Venetian 
chandelier taken away. The golden griffins under 
the white-marble table-tops again reflected the light. 
The white goddesses danced above the mirror. The 
variegated flowers on the silk damask glistened in the 
evening glow. Roses were picked and brought in. 
The whole room was filled with their fragrance. There 
were wonderful roses with unknown names, which had 
been brought to Ekeby from foreign lands. There 
were yellow ones in whose veins the blood shone red 
as in a human being's, and cream-white roses with 
curled edges, and pink roses with broad petals, which 
on their outside edge were as colorless as water, and 
dark red with black shadows. They carried in all 
Altringer's roses which had come from far distant 
lands to rejoice the eyes of lovely women, 


The music and music-stands were brought in, and 
the brass instruments and bows and violins of all sizes ; 
for good Madame Musica shall now reign at £kd)y 
and try to console Gosta Berling. 

Madame Musica has chosen the Oxford Symphony 
of Hayden, and has had the pensioners practise it 
Julius conducts, and each of the others attends to his 
own instrument. All the pensioners can play — they 
would not otherwise be pensioners. 

When everything is ready Gosta is sent for. He 
is still weak and low-spirited, but he rejoices in the 
beautiful room and in the music he soon shall hear. 
For every one knows that for him who suffers and 
is in pain good Madame Musica is the best company. 
She is gay and playful like a child. She is fiery and 
captivating like a young woman. She is good and 
wise like the old who have lived a good life. 

And then the pensioners began to play, so gently, 
so murmuringly soft. 

It goes well, it goes brilliantly well From the dead 
notes they charm Madame Musica herself. Spread 
out your magic cloak, dear Madame Musica, and take 
Gosta Berling to the land of gladness, where he used 
to live. 

Alas that it is Gosta Berling who sits there pale 
and depressed, and whom the old men must amuse as 
if he were a child. There will be no more joy now in 

I know why the old people loved him. I know 
how long a winter evening can be, and how gloom can 
creep over the spirit in those lonely farm-houses. I 
understand how it felt when he came. 

Ah, fancy a Sunday afternoon, when work is laid 
aside and the thoughts are dull ! Fancy an obstinate 


"north wind, whipping cold into the room, — a cold 
which no fire can relieve ! Fancy the single tallow- 
candle, which has to be continually snuffed ! Fancy 
the monotonous sound of psalms from the kitchen! 

Well, and then bells come ringing, eager feet stamp 
off the snow in the hall, and Gbsta Berling comes 
into the room. He laughs and jokes. He is life, he 
is warmth. He opens the piano, and he plays so that 
they are surprised at the old strings. He can sing 
all songs, play any tune. He makes all the inmates 
of the house happy. He was never cold, he was 
never tired. The mourner forgot his sorrows when 
he saw him. Ah, what a good heart he had! How 
compassionate he was to the weak and poor ! And 
what a genius he was ! Yes, you ought to have heard 
the old people talk of him. 

But now, just as they were playing, he burst into 
tears. He thinks Hfe is so sad. He rests his head in 
his hands and weeps. The pensioners are dismayed. 
These are not mild, heaUng tears, such as Madame 
Musica generally calls forth. He is sobbing like one 
in despair. At their wits' end they put their instru- 
ments away. 

And the good Madame Musica, who loves Gosta 
Berling, she too almost loses courage; but then she 
remembers that she has still a mighty champion 
among the pensioners. 

It is the gentle Ldwenborg, he who had lost his 
fiancee in the muddy river, and who is more Gbsta 
Berling's slave than any of the others. He steals 
away to the piano. 

In the pensioners' wing Ldwenborg has a great 
wooden table, on which he has painted a keyboard 
ind set up a music-stand. There he can sit for hours 


at a time and let his fingers fly over the black and 
white keys. There he practises both scales and 
studies, and there he plays his Beethoven. He never 
plays anything but Beethoven. 

But the old man never ventures on any other in- 
strument than the wooden table. For the piano he 
has a respectful awe. It tempts him, but it frightens 
him even more. The clashing instrument, on which 
so many polkas have been drummed, is a sacred thing 
to him. He has never dared to touch it. Think of 
that wonderful thing with its many strings, which 
could give life to the great master's works ! He only 
needs to put his ear to it, to hear andantes and 
scherzos murmuring there. But he has never played 
on such a thing. He will never be rich enough to buy 
one of his own, and on this he has never dared to 
play. The major's wife was not so willing either to 
open it for him. 

He has heard how polkas and waltzes have been 
played on it. But in such profane music the noble 
instrument could only clash and complain. No, if 
Beethoven should come, then it would let its true, 
clear sound be heard. 

Now he thinks that the moment is come for him 
and Beethoven. He will take courage and touch the 
holy thing, and let his young lord and master be glad- 
dened by the sleeping harmonies. 

He sits down and begins to play. He is uncertain 
and nervous, but he gropes through a couple of bars, 
tries to bring out the right ring, frowns, tries again, 
and puts his hands before his face and begins to weep. 

Yes, it is a bitter thing. The sacred thing is not 
sacred. There are no clear, pure tones hidden and 
breaming in it; tb^re are no mighty tbu»der$, no 


rushing hurricanes. None of the endless harmonies 
direct from heaven had remained there. It is an old, 
worn-out piano, and nothing more. 

But then Madame Musica gives the colonel a hint. 
He takes Ruster with him and they go to the pen- 
sioners' wing and get Lowenborg's table, where the 
keys are painted, 

" See here, Lowenborg," says Beerencreutz, when 
they come back, " here is your piano. Play for Gosta I " 

Then Lowenborg stops crying and sits down to 
play Beethoven for his sorrowful young friend. Now 
he would certainly be glad again. 

Iln the old man's head sound the most heavenly 
►nes. He cannot think but that Gosta hears how 
CautifuIIy he is playing. He meets with no more 
ifficulties. He plays his runs and trills with the 
greatest ease. He would have liked that the master 
himself could have heard him. 

The longer he plays, the more he is carried away. 
He hears every note with unearthly clearness. He 
sits there glowing with enthusiasm and emotion, 
hearing the most wonderful tones, certain that Gosta 
must hear them too and be comforted. 

Gosta sat and looked at him. At first he was 
angry at this foolery, but gradually he became of 
milder mood- He was irresistible, the old man, as he 
sat and enjoyed his Beethoven. 

And Gosta began to think how this man too, who 
now was so gentle and so careless, had been sunk in 
suffering, how he too had lost her whom he loved. 
jjd now he sat beamingly happy at his wooden table. 
>thing more was needed to add to his bliss. 
He felt humbled. "What, Gosta," he said to him- 
', " can you no longer bear and suffer ? You who 


have been hardened by poverty all your life, you who 
have heard every tree in the forest, every tuft in the 
meadow preach of resignation and patience, you who 
have been brought up in a land where the winter is 
severe and the .summer short, — have you forgotten 
how to endure?" 

Ah Gosta, a man must bear all that life offers with 
a brave heart and smiling lip, or he is no man. Re- 
gret as much as you like if you have lost what you 
hold dearest, let remorse tear at your vitals, but show 
yourself a man. Let your glance shine with gladness, 
and meet your friends with cheerful words ! 

Life is hard, nature is hard. But they both give 
courage and cheerfulness as compensations for their 
hardness, or no one could hold out. 

Courage and cheerfulness ! It is as if they were 
the first duties of life. You have never failed in them 
before, and shall not now. 

Are you worse than Lowenborg, who sits there at 
his wooden piano, than all the other pensioners? You 
know well enough that none of them have escaped 
suffering ! 

And then Gosta looks at them. Oh, such a per- 
formance ! They all are sitting there so seriously and 
listening to this music which nobody hears. 

Suddenly Lowenborg is waked from his dreams by 
a merry laugh. He lifts his hands from the keys and 
listens as if in rapture. It is Gosta Berling's old 
laugh, his good, kind, infectious laugh. It is the 
sweetest music the old man has heard in all his life. 

" Did I not say that Beethoven would help you, 
Gosta," he cries. " Now you are yourself again." 

So did the good Madame Musica cure Grosta Ber- 
ing's hypochondria, 




Eros, all-powerful god, you know well that it often 
seems as if a man should have freed himself from 
your might All the tender feelings which unite 
mankind seem dead in his heart. Madness stretches 
its claws after the unhappy one, but then you come 
in all your power, and like the great saint's staff the 
dried-up heart bursts into bloom. 

No one is so mean as the Broby clergyman, no one 
more divided by malice and uncharitableness from his 
fellow-men. His rooms are unheated in the winter, 
he sits on an unpainted wooden seat, he dresses in 
rags, lives on dry bread, and is furious if a beggar 
enters his door. He lets the horse starve in the stable 
and sells the hay, his cows nibble the dry grass at the 
roadside and the moss on the wall. The bleating 
of the hungry sheep can be heard far along the 
highway. The peasants throw him presents of food 
which their dogs will not eat, of clothes which their 
poor disdain. His hand is stretched out to beg, his 
back bent to thank. He begs of the rich, lends to the 
poor. If he sees a piece of money his heart aches 
with longing till he gets it into his pocket. Unhappy 
is he who has not his affairs in order on the day of 
payment ! 

He was married late in life, but it had been better 
if he had never been. Exhausted and overworked, his 
wife died. His daughter serves with strangers. He 


is old, but age grants him no relief in his struggling. 
The madness of avarice never leaves him. 

But one fine day in the beginning of August a heavy 
coach, drawn by four horses, drives up Broby hill. 
A delicate old lady comes driving in great state, with 
coachman and footman and lady's-maid. She comes 
to meet the Broby clergyman. She had loved him in 
the days of her youth. 

He had been tutor at her father's house, and they 
had loved one another, although her proud family 
had separated them. And now she is journeying 
up Broby hill to see him before she dies. All that 
is left to her in life is to see once again the beloved 
of her y6uth. 

She sits in the great carriage and dreams. She is 
not driving up Broby hill to a poor little pastorage. 
She is on her way to the cool leafy arbor down in the 
park, where her lover is waiting. She sees him ; he is 
young, he can kiss, he can love. Now, when she knows 
that she soon shall meet him his image rises before 
her with singular clearness. He is so handsome, so 
handsome ! He can adore, he can burn, he fills her 
whole being with rapture. 

Now she is sallow, withered, and old. Perhaps he 
will not recognize her with her sixty years, but she 
has not come to be seen, but to see, to see the beloved 
of her youth, who has gone through life untouched 
by time, who is ever young, beautiful, glowing. 

She has come from so far away that she has not 
heard a word of the Broby clergyman. 

The coach clatters up the hill, and at the summit 
the pastorage is visible. 

" For the love of God," whines a beggar at the 
wayside, " a copper for a poor man ! " 


The noble lady gives him a piece of silver and 
asks where the Broby pastorage is. 

" The pastorage is in front of you/' he says, ** but 
the clergyman is not at home, there is no one at 
the pastorage." 

The little lady seems to fade away. The cool 
arbor vanishes, her lover is not there. How could 
she expect, after forty years, to find him there? 

What had the gracious lady to do at the vicarage? 

She had come to meet the minister. She had 
known him in the old days. 

Forty years and four hundred miles have separated 
them. And for each ten miles she has come nearer 
she has left behind her a year with its burden of 
sorrows and memories, so that when she now comes 
to the vicarage she is a girl of twenty again, without 
a care or a regret. 

The beggar stands and looks at her, sees her 
change under his eyes from twenty to sixty, and from 
sixty back again to twenty. 

" The minister is coming home this afternoon," he 
says. The gracious lady would do best to drive down 
to the Broby inn and come again later. In the after- 
noon, the beggar can answer for it, the minister will 
be at home. 

A moment after, the heavy coach with the little 
faded lady rolls down the hill to the inn, but the 
beggar stands trembling and looks after her. He 
feels that he ought to fall on his knees and kiss the 
wheel tracks. 

Elegant, newly shaven, and washed, in shoes with 
shining buckles, with silk stockings, with ruffles and 
frills, the Broby clergyman stands at noon that same 
day before the dean's wife at Bro. 


" A fine lady/' he says, " a count's daughter. Do 
you think that I, poor man, can ask her to come into 
my house? My floors are black, my drawing-room 
without furniture, the dining-room ceiling is green 
with mildew and damp. Help me ! Remember that 
she is a noble count's daughter ! " 

" Say that you have gone away ! " 

" My dear lady, she has come four hundred miles 
to see me, poor man. She does not know how it is. 
I have not a bed to offer her. I have not a bed for 
her servants ! " 

" Well, let her go again." 

" Dear heart ! Do you not understand what I 
mean? I would rather give everything I possess, 
everything that I have gathered together by industry 
and striving, than that she should go without my having 
received her under my roof. She was twenty when 
I saw her last, and it is now forty years ago ! Help 
me, that I may see her in my house! Here is 
money, if money can help, but here more than money 
is needed." 

Oh, Eros, women love you. They would rather 
go a hundred steps for you than one for other gods. 

In the deanery at Bro the rooms are emptied, the 
kitchen is emptied, the larder is emptied. Wagons 
are piled up and driven to the vicarage. When the 
dean comes home from the communion service, he 
will find empty rooms, look in through the kitchen 
door to ask after his dinner and find no one there. 
No dinner, no wife, no maids! What was to be 

Eros has so wished it. 

A little later in the afternoon the heavy coach 
comes clattering up Broby hill. And the little lady 


^its and wonders if any new mischance shall happen, 
if it is really true that she is now going to meet her 
life's only Joy. 

Then the coach swings into the vicarage, there 
comes some one, there he comes. He lifts her out of 
the carriage, he takes her on his arm, strong as ever, 
she is clasped in an embrace as warm as of old, forty 
years ago. She looks into his eyes; which glow as 
they did when they had only seen five and twenty 

A storm of emotion comes over her — warmer 
than ever. She remembers that he once carried her 
up the steps to the terrace. She, who believed that 
her love had lived all these years, had forgotten what 
it was to be clasped in strong arms, to look into 

ung, glowing eyes. 

She does not see that he is old. She only sees 

She does not see the black floors, the mildewed 
ceihngs, she only sees his glowing eyes. The Broby 
clergyman is a stately man. a handsome man in that 
hour. He grows handsome when he looks at her. 

She hears his voice, his clear, strong voice ; caress- 
ingly it sounds. He only speaks so to her. Why 
did he need furniture from the deanery for his empty 
rooms; why food, why servants? The old lady would 
never have missed anything. She hears his voice 
and sees his eyes. 

Never, never before has she been so happy. 

She knows that he has been married, but she does 
not remember it. How could she remember such a 
thing? She is twenty, he twenty-five. Shall he be- 
come the mean Broby clergyman, that smiling youth? 
The wailing of the poor, the curses of the defrauded, 


the scornful gibes, the caricatures, the sneers, all that 
as yet does not exist for him. His heart burns only 
with a pure and innocent love. Never shall that 
proud youth love gold so that he will creep after it 
in the dirt, beg it from the wayfarer, suffer humilia- 
tion, suffer disgrace, suffer cold, suffer hunger to get 
it. Shall he starve his child, torture his wife, for that 
same miserable gold? It is impossible. . Such he 
can never be. He is a good man like all others. 
He is not a monster. 

The beloved of his youth does not walk by the 
side of a despised wretch, unworthy of the profession 
he has dared to undertake ! 

Oh, Eros, not that evening ! That evening he is 
not the Broby clergyman, nor the next day either, 
nor the day after. 

The day after that she goes. 

What a dream, what a beautiful dream ! For these 
three days not a cloud ! 

She journeyed smiling home to her castle and her 
memories. She never heard his name again, she 
never asked after him. She wanted to dream that 
dream as long as she lived. 

The Broby clergyjnan sat in his lonely home and 
wept She had made him young. Must he now be 
old again? Should the evil spirit return and he be 
despicable, contemptible, as he had been? 




Patron Julius carried down his red-painted wooden 
chest from the pensioners' wing. He filled with 
fragrant brandy a green keg, which had followed 
him on many journeys, and in the big carved luncheon- 
box he put butter, bread, and seasoned cheese, deli- 
ciously shading in green and brown, fat ham, and 
pan-cakes swimming in raspberry jam. 

Then Patron Julius went about and said farewell, 
with tears in his eyes, to all the glory of Ekeby. 
He caressed for the last time the worn balls in the 
bowling-alley and the round-cheeked youngsters on 
the estate. He went about to the arbors in the 
garden and the grottos in the park. He was in 
stable and cow-house, patted the horses' necks, shook 
the angry bull's horns, and let the calves lick his 
bare hand. Finally he went with weeping eyes to 
the main building, where the farewell breakfast 
awaited him. 

Woe to our existence! How can it be full of so 
much darkness.' There was poison in the food, gall 
in the wine. 

The pensioners' throats were compressed by emo- 
tion as well as his own. A mist of tears dimmed 
the eyes. The farewell speech was broken by sobs. 
Woe to our existence! His life would be, from now 
on, one long desire. He would never smile again; 
hs ballads should die from his memory as flowers 


die in the autumn ground. He should grow pale 
and (hin, wither like a frost-bitten rose, like a thirst- ' 
ing lily. Never more should the pensioners see 
poor Julius. Heavy forebodings traversed his soul, 
just as shadows of wind-swept clouds traverse our 
newly tilled fields. He would go home to die. 

Blooming with health and well-being, he now 
stood before them. Never again should they see 
him so. Never more should they jestingly ask him 
when he last saw his feet ; never more should they 
wish for his cheeks for bowls. In liver and lungs 
the disease had already settled. It was gnawing 
and consuming. He had felt it long. His days 
were numbered. 

Oh, will the Ekeby pensioners but remember 
death .^ Oh, may they never forget him! 

Duty called him. There in his home sat his 
mother and waited for him. For seventeen years 
she had waited for him to come home from Ekeby. 
Now she had written a summoning letter, and he 
would obey. He knew that it would be his death; 
but he would obey like a good son. 

Oh, the glorious feasts ! Oh, the fair shores, the 
proud falls! Oh, the wild adventures, the white, 
smooth floors, the beloved pensioners' wing ! Oh, 
violins and horns, oh, life of happiness and pleasure ! 
It was death to be parted from all that. 

Then Patron Julius went out into the kitchen and 
said farewell to the servants of the house. Each 
and all, from the housekeeper to kitchen-girl, he 
embraced and kissed in overflowing emotion. The 
maids wept and lamented over his fate : that such a 
kind and merry gentleman should die, that they 
should never see him again. 


"Patron Julius gave command that his chaise should 
be dragged out of the carriage-house and his borse 
taken out of the stable. 

His voice almost failed him when he gave that 
order. So the chaise might not mould in peace at 
Ekeby, so old Kajsa must be parted from the well- 
known manger. He did not wish to say anything 
hard about his mother; but she ought to have 
thought of the chaise and Kajsa, if she did not think 
of him. How would they bear the long journey.' 

The most bitter of all was to take leave of the 

Little, round Patron Julius, more built to roll 
than to walk, felt himself tragic to his very finger- 
tips. He felt himself the great Athenian, who 
calmly emptied the poison cup in the circle of weep- 
ing students. He felt himself the old King Gosta, 
who prophesied to Sweden's people that they some 
day should wish to tear him up from the dust. 

Finally he sang his best ballad for them. He 
thought of the swan, who dies in singing. It was 
so, he hoped, that they would remember him, — a 
kingly spirit, which does not lower itself to com- 
plaining, but goes its way, borne on melody. 

At last the last cup was emptied, the last song 
sung, the last embrace given. He had his coat on, 
and he held the whip in his hand. There was not a 
dry eye about him ; his own were so filled by sorrow's 
rising mist that he could not see anything. 

Then the pensioners seized him and lifted him 
up. Cheers thundered about him. They put him 
down somewhere, he did not see where. A whip 
cracked, the carriage seemed to move under him. 
He was carried away. When he recovered the use 
of his eyes he was out on the highway. 


The pensioners had really wept and been over- 
come by deep regret ; still their grief had not stifled 
all the heart's glad emotions. One of them — was 
it Gosta Berling, the poet, or Beerencreutz, the 
card-playing old warrior, or the life-weary Cousin 
Christopher? — had arranged it so that old Kajsa 
did not have to be taken from her stall, nor the 
mouldering chaise from the coach-house. Instead, 
a big spotted ox had been harnessed to a hay-wagon, 
and after the red chest, the green keg, and the carved 
luncheon-box had been put in there. Patron Julius 
himself, whose eyes were dim with tears, was lifted 
up, not on to the luncheon-box, nor on to the chest, 
but on to the spotted ox's back. 

For so is man, tod weak to meet sorrow in all its 
bitterness! The pensioners honestly mourned for 
their friend, who was going away to die, — that 
withered lily, that mortally wounded singing swan; 
yet the oppression of their hearts was relieved when 
they saw him depart riding on the big ox's back, 
while his fat body was shaken with sobs, his arms, 
outspread for the last embrace, sank down in despair, 
and his eyes sought sympathy in an unkind heaven. 

Out on the highway the mists began to clear for 
Patron Julius, and he perceived that he was sitting 
on the shaking back of an animal. And then people 
say that he began to ponder on what can happen 
in seventeen long years. Old Kajsa was visibly 
changed. Could the oats and clover of Ekeby cause 
so much } And he cried — I do not know if the 
stones in the road or the birds in the bushes heard 
it, but true it is that he cried — " The devil may tor- 
ture me, if you have not got horns, Kajsa!" 

After another period of consideration he let him- 


self slide gently down from the back of the ox, 
climbed up into the wagon, sat down on the luncheon- 
box, and drove on, deep in his thoughts. 

After a while, when he has almost reached Broby, 
he hears singing. 

It was the merry young ladies from Berga, and 
some of the judge's pretty daughters, who were walk- 
ing along the road. They had fastened their lunch- 
baskets on long sticks, which rested on their shoulders 
like guns, and they were marching bravely on in the 
summer's heat, singing in good time. 

" Whither away. Patron Julius ? " they cried, when 
they met him, without noticing the cloud of grief 
which obscured his brow. 

"I am departing from the home of sin and vanity," 
answered Patron Julius. "I will dwell no longer 
among idlers and malefactors. I am going home to 
my mother. " 

"Oh," they cried, "it is not true; you do not want 
to leave Ekeby, Patron Julius ! " 

"Yes," he said, and struck his wooden chest with 
his fist. " As Lot fled from Sodom and Gomorrah, 
so do I flee from Ekeby. There is not a righteous 
man there. But when the earth crumbles away under 
them, and the sulphur rain patters down from the 
sky, I shall rejoice in God's just judgment. Fare- 
well, girls; beware of Ekeby!" 

Whereupon he wished to continue on his way; but 
that was not at all their plan. They meant to walk 
up to Dunder Cliff, to climb it; but the road was 
long, and they felt inclined to ride in Julius' wagon 
to the foot of the mountain. Inside of two minutes 
the girls had got their way. Patron Julius turned 
back and directed his course towards Dunder Cliff. 


Smiling, he sat on his chest, while the wagon was 
511ed with girls. Along the road grew daisies and 
buttercups. The ox had to rest every now and then 
for a while. Then the girls climbed out and picked 
flowers. Soon gaudy wreaths hung on Julius' head 
and the ox's horns. 

Further on they came upon bright young birches 
and dark alder-bushes. They got out and brdte 
branches to adorn the wagon. It looked, soon, like 
a moving grove. It was fun and play the whole 

Patron Julius became milder and brighter as the 
day went on. He divided his provisions among the 
girls, and sang ballads for them. When they stood 
on the top of Dunder Cliff, with the wide panorama 
lying below, so proud and beautiful that tears came 
into their eyes at its loveliness, Julius felt his heart 
beat violently; words poured from his lips, and he 
spoke of his beloved land. 

"Ah, Varmland," he said, "ever beautiful, ever 
glorious ! Often, when I have seen thee before me 
on a map, I have wondered what thou might repre- 
sent; but now I understand what thou art. Thou 
art an old, pious hermit, who sits quiet and dreams, 
with crossed legs and hands resting in his lap. 
Thou hast a pointed cap drawn down over thy half- 
shut eyes. Thou art a muser, a holy dreamer, and 
thou art very beautiful. Wide forests are thy dress. 
Long bands of blue water and parallel chains of blue 
hills border it. Thou art so simple that strangers 
do not see how beautiful thou art. Thou art poor, 
as the devout desire to be. Thou sittest still, while 
Vanern's waves wash thy feet and thy crossed legs. 
To the left thou hast thy fields of ore and thy iron- 


works. There is thy beating heart. To the north 
thou hast the dark, beautiful regions of the wilder- 
ness, of mystery. There is thy dreaming head. 

"When I see thee, gigantic, serious, my eyes are 
filled with tears. Thou art stern in thy beauty. 
Thou art meditation, poverty, resignation; and yet 
I see in thy sternness the tender features of kind- 
ness. I see thee and worship. If I only look into 
the deep forest, if only the hem of thy garment 
touches me, my spirit is healed. Hour after hour, 
year after year, I have gazed into thy holy counte- 
nance. What mystery are you hiding under lowered 
eyelids, thou spirit of resignation ? Hast thou solved 
the enigma of life and death, or art thou wondering 
still, thou holy, thou giant-like.' For me thou art 
the keeper of great, serious thoughts. But I see 
people crawl on thee and about thee, creatures who 
never seem to see the majesty of earnestness on thy 
brow. They only see the beauty of thy face and thy 
limbs, and are so charmed by it that they forget all 

"Woe is me, woe to us all, children of Varmland! 
Beauty, beauty and nothing else, we demand of life. 
We, children of renunciation, of seriousness, of pov- 
erty, raise our hands in one long prayer, and ask the 
one good: beauty. May life be like a rose-bush, 
with blossoms of love, wine, and pleasure, and may 
its roses be within every man's reach! Yes, that is 
what we wish, and our land wears the features of 
sternness, earnestness, renunciation. Our land is 
the eternal symbol of meditation, but we have no 

" Oh, Varmland, beautiful and glorious ! " 
r So he spoke, with tears in his eyes, and with voice 


vibrating with inspiration. The young girls heard 
him with wonder and not without emotion. They 
had little guessed the depth of feeling which was 
hidden under that surface, glittering with jests and 

When it drew towards evening, and they once 
more climbed into the hay-wagon, the girls hardly 
knew whither Patron Julius drove them, until they 
stopped -before the steps at Ekeby. 

" Now we will go in here and have a dance, girls," 
said Patron Julius. 

What did the pensioners say when they saw Patron 
Julius come with a withered wreath round his hat, 
and the hay-cart full of girls } 

"We might have known that the girls had carried 
him off," they said; "otherwise we should have had 
him back here several hours earlier." For the pen- 
sioners remembered that this was exactly the seven- 
teenth time Patron Julius had tried to leave Ekeby, 
once for every departing year. Now Patron Julius 
had already forgotten both this attempt and all the 
others. His conscience slept once more its year- 
long sleep. 

He was a doughty man, Patron Julius. He was 
light in the dance, gay at the card-table. Pen, 
pencil, and fiddle-bow lay equally well in his hand. 
He had an easily moved heart, fair words on his 
tongue, a throat full of songs. But what would have 
been the good of all that if he had not possessed a 
conscience, which made itself be felt only once a 
year, like the dragon-flies, which free themselves 
from the gloomy depths and take wings to live only 
a few hours in the light of day and in the glory of 
the sun? 




SVARTSJO church is white both outside and in : the 
walls are white, the pulpit, the seats, the galleries, 
the roof, the window-sashes, the altar-cloth, — 
everything is white. In Svartsjo church are no 
' decorations, no pictures, no coats of arms. Over 
the altar stands only a wooden cross with a white 
linen cloth. But it was not always so. Once the 
roof was covered with paintings, and many colored 
images of stone and plaster stood in that house of 

Once, many years ago, an artist in Svartsjo had 
stood and watched the summer sky and the path of 
the clouds across the sun. He had seen those white, 
shining clouds, which in the morning float low on 
the horizon, pile themselves up higher and higher 
and raise themselves to storm the heavens. They 
set up sails like ships. They raised standards like 
warriors. They encroached on the whole sky. 
They placed themselves before the sun, those grow- 
ing monsters, and took on wonderful shapes. There 
was a devouring lion; it changed into a powdered 
lady. There was a giant with outstretched arms; 
he laid himself down as a dreaming sphinx. Some 
adorned their white nakedness with gold-bordered 
mantles; others spread rouge over snowy cheeks. 


There were plains. There were forests. There 
were walled castles with high towers. The white 
clouds were lords of the summer sky. They filled 
the whole blue arch. They reached up to the sun 
and hid it. 

"Oh, how beautiful," thought the gentle artist, 
" if the longing spirits could climb up on those tow- 
ering mountains and be carried on those rocking 
ships ever higher and higher upwards!" 

And all at once he understood that the white 
clouds were the vessels on which the souls of the 
blessed were carried. 

He saw them there. They stood on the gliding 
masses with lilies in their hands and golden crowns 
on their heads. Space echoed with their song. 
Angels circled down on broad, strong wings to meet 
them. Oh, what a host there were ! As the clouds 
spread out, more and more were visible. They lay 
on the cloud-beds like water-lilies on a pond ; they 
adorned them, as lilies adorn the meadow. Cloud 
after cloud rolled up. And all were filled with 
heavenly hosts in armor of silver, of immortal singers 
in purple-bordered mantles. 

That artist had afterwards painted the roof in the 
Svartsjo church. He had wished to reproduce there 
the mounting clouds of the summer day, which bore 
the blessed to the kingdom of heaven. The hand 
which had guided the pencil had been strong, but 
also rather stiff, so that the clouds resembled more 
the curling locks of a full-bottomed wig than moun- 
tains of soft mist. And the form the holy ones had 
taken for the painter's fancy he was not able to give 
them again, but instead clothed them in long, red 
cloaks, and stiff bishops' mitres, or in black robes 


with stiff ruffles. He had given them big heads and 
small bodies, and he had provided them with hand- 
kerchiefs and prayer-books. Latin sentences flew out 
of their mouths ; and for them whom he meant to be 
the greatest, he had constructed solid wooden chairs 
on the backs of the clouds, so that they could be 
carried sitting comfortably to the everlasting life. 

But every one knew that spirits and angels had 
never shown themselves to the poor artist, and so 
they were not much surprised that he had not 
been able to give them celestial beauty. The good 
master's pious work had seemed to many wonder- 
fully fine, and much holy emotion had it wakened. 
It would have been worthy to have been looked at 
by our eyes as well. 

But during the pensioners' year, Count Dohna had 
the whole church whitewashed. Then the paintings 
on the roof were destroyed. And all the plaster 
saints were also taken away. 

Alas ! the plaster saints ! 

There was a Saint Olof with crown on helm, an 
axe in his hand, and a kneeling giant under his feet; 
on the pulpit was a Judith in a red jacket and blue 
skirt, with a sword in one hand and an hour-glass in 
the other, — instead of the Assyrian general's head; 
there was a mysterious Queen of Sheba in a blue 
jacket and red skirt, with a web-foot on one leg and 
her hands full of Sibylline books; there was a gray 
Saint Goran lying alone on a bench in the choir, for 
both horse and dragon had been broken away; there 
was Saint Christopher with the flowering staff, and 
Saint Erik with sceptre and axe, dressed in a flow- 
ing brocaded cloak. 

These saints were always losing their sceptres or 


their ears or hands and had to be mended and 
cleaned. The congregation wearied of it, and 
longed to be rid of them. But the peasants would 
never have done the saints any injury if Count 
Henrik Dohna had not existed. It was he who had 
them taken away. 

When Count Dohna had caused his marriage to 
be declared null and void, instead of seeking out his 
wife and having it made legal, much indignation had 
arisen ; for every one knew that his wife had left his 
house only not to be tortured to death. It seemed 
now as if he wanted to win back God's grace and 
men's respect by a good work, and so he had Svartsjo 
church repaired. He had the whole church white- 
washed and the paintings torn down. He and his 
men carried the images out in a boat and sank them 
in the depths of the Lofven. 

How could he dare to lay his hand on those mighty 
ones of the Lord ? 

Did the hand which struck off Holofemes' head 
no longer hold a sword? Had Sheba's queen for- 
gotten all secret knowledge, which wounds more 
deeply than a poisoned arrow? Saint Olof, Saint 
Olof, old viking, Saint Goran, old dragon-killer, the 
noise of your deeds is, then, dead ! But it was best 
that the saints did not wish to use force against their 
destroyers. Since the Svartsjo peasants would not 
pay for paint for their robes and gilding for their 
crowns, they allowed Count Dohna to carry them 
out and sink them in Lofven's bottomless depths. 
They would not stand there and disfigure God's 

I thought of that boat with its load of saints glid- 
ing over Lofven* s surface on a quiet summer even- 



ing in August. The man who rowed took slow 
strokes, and threw timorous glances at the strange 
passengers which lay in the how and stern; but 
Count Dohna, who was also there, was not afraid. 
He took them one by one and threw them into the 
water. His brow was clear and he breathed deep. 
He felt like a defender of the pure Evangelical 
religion. And no miracle was performed in the old 
saints' honor. Silent and dejected they sank down 
into annihilation. 

But the next Sunday morning Svartsjo church 
stood gleamingly white. No images disturbed the 
peace of meditation. Only with the eyes of the 
soul could the virtuous contemplate the glory of 
heaven and the faces of the blessed. 

But the earth, men's beloved dwelling, is green, 
the sky is blue. The world glows with colors. Why 
should the church be white.' White as winter, 
naked as poverty, pale as grief! It does not glitter 
with hoar-frost like a wintry wood ; it does not shine 
in pearls and lace like a white bride. The church 
stands in white, cold whitewash, without an image, 
without a picture. 

That Sunday Count Dohna sat in a flower-trimmed 
arm-chair in the choir, to be seen and to be praised 
by all men. He who had had the old benches 
mended, destroyed the disfiguring images, had set 
new glass in all the broken windows, and had the 
whole church whitewashed, should now be honored. 
If he wished to soften the Almighty's anger, it was 
right that he had adorned His temple as well as he 
knew how. But why did he take praise for it ? 

He, who came with implacable sternness on his 

mscience, ought to have fallen on his knees and 


begged his brothers and sisters in the church to 
implore God to suffer him to come into his sanctu- 
ary. It would have been better for him if he had 
stood there like a miserable culprit than that he 
should sit honored and blessed in the choir, and 
receive praise because he had wished to make his 
peace with God. 

When the service was over and the last psalm 
sung, no one left the church, for the clergyman was 
to make a speech of thanks to the count. But it 
never went so far. 

For the doors were thrown open, back into the 
church came the old saints, dripping with Lofven's 
water, stained with green slime and brown mud. 
They must have heard that here the praise of him 
who had destroyed them, who had driven them out 
of God's holy house and sunk them in the cold, 
dissolving waves, should be sung. The old saints 
wanted to have their share in the entertainment. 

They do not love the waves' monotonous ripple. 
They are used to psalms and prayers. They held 
their peace and let it all happen, as long as they 
believed that it would be to the honor of God. But 
it was not so. Here sits Count Dohna in honor 
and glory in the choir and wishes to be worshipped 
and praised in the house of God. They cannot suffer 
such a thing. Therefore they have risen from their 
watery grave and march into the church, easily 
recognizable to all. There is Saint Olof, with 
crown on hat, and Saint Erik, with gold-brocaded 
cloak, and the gray Saint Goran and Saint Chris- 
topher; no more; the Queen of Sheba and Judith 
had not come. 

But when the people have recovered a little from 


their amazement, an audible whisper goes through 
the church, — 

" The pensioners ! " 

Yes, of course it is the pensioners. And they 
go up to the count without a word, and lift his chair 
to their shoulders and carry him from the church 
and set him down on the slope outside. 

They say nothing, and look neither to the right 
nor to the left. They merely carry Count Dohna 
out of the house of Grod, and when that is done, they 
go away again, the nearest way to the lake. 

They used no violence, nor did they waste much 
time in explanations. It was plain enough: "We 
the Ekeby pensioners have our own opinion. Count 
Dohna is not worthy to be praised in God's house. 
Therefore we carry him out. Let him who will 
carry him in again." 

But he was not carried in. The clergyman's 
speech of thanks was never made. The people 
streamed out of the church. There was no one who 
did not think the pensioners had acted rightly. 

They thought of the fair young countess who had 
been so cruelly tortured at Borg. They remembered 
her who had been so kind to the poor, who had been 
so sweet to look upon that it had been a consolation 
for them to see her. 

It was a pity to come with wild pranks into the 
church; but both the clergyman and the congrega- 
tion knew that they had been about to play a greater 
trick on the Omniscient. And they stood ashamed 
before the misguided old madmen. 

"When man is silent, the stones must speak,*' 
they said. 

But after that day Count Henrik was not happy 


at Borg. One dark night in the beginning of 
August a closed carriage drove close up to the big 
steps. All the servants stationed themselves about 
it, and Countess Marta came out wrapped in shawls 
with a thick veil over her face. The count led her, 
but she trembled and shuddered. It was with the 
greatest difficulty that they could persuade her to go 
through the hall and down the steps. 

At last she reached the carriage, the count sprang 
in after her, the doors were slammed to, and the 
coachman started the horses off at a gallop. The 
next morning, when the magpies awoke, she was 

The count lived from that time on far away in the 
South of Sweden. Borg was sold and has changed 
owners many times. No one can help loving it. 
But few have been happy in its possession. 



god's wayfarer 

God's wayfarer, Captain Lennart, came one after- 
noon in August wandering up to the Broby inn and 
walked into the kitchen there. He was on his way 
to his home, Helgesater, which lies a couple of 
miles northwest of Broby, close to the edge of the 

Captain Lennart did not then know that he was to 
be one of God's wanderers on the earth. His heart 
was full of joy that he should see his home again. 
He had suffered a hard fate; but now he was at 
home, and all would be well. He did not know that 
he was to be one of those who may not rest under 
their own roof, nor warm themselves at their own 

God's wayfarer. Captain Lennart, had a cheerful 
spirit. As he found no one in the kitchen, he poked 
about like a wild boy. He threw the cat at the 
dog's head, and laughed till it rang through the 
house when the two comrades let the heat of the 
moment break through old friendship, and fought 
with tooth and nail and fiery eyes. 

The innkeeper's wife came in, attracted by the 
noise. She stopped on the threshold and looked at 
the man, who was laughing at the struggling ani- 
mals. She knew him well ; but when she saw him 



last, he had been sitting in the prison-van with 
handcuffs on his wrists. She remembered it well. 
Five years and a half ago, during the winter fair in 
Karlstad, thieves had stolen the jewels of the gov- 
ernor's wife. Many rings, bracelets, and buckles, 
much prized by the noble lady, — for most of them 
were heirlooms and presents, — had then been lost 
They had never been found. But a rumor spread 
through the land that Captain Lennart at Helgesater 
was the thief. 

She had never been able to understand how such 
a rumor had started. He was such a good and hon- 
orable man. He lived happily with his wife, whom 
he had only a few years before brought home, for he 
had not been able to afiford to marry before. Had 
he not a good income from his pay and his estate? 
What could tempt such a man to steal old bracelets 
and rings } And still more strange it seemed to her 
that such a rumor could be so believed, so proven, 
that Captain Lennart was discharged from the army, 
lost his order of the Sword, and was condemned to 
five years' hard labor. 

He himself had said that he had been at the 
market, but had left before he heard an)^hing of the 
theft. On the highway he had found an ugly old 
buckle, which he had taken home and given to the 
children. The buckle, however, was of gold, and 
belonged to the stolen things; that was the cause 
of his misfortune. It had all been Sintram's 
work. He had accused him, and given the con- 
demning testimony. It seemed as if he wanted to 
get rid of Captain Lennart, for a short time after 
a law-suit was opened against himself, because it 
had been discovered that he had sold powder to the 



Norwegians during the war of 1814. People believed 
that he was afraid of Captain Lennart's testimony. 
As it was, he was acquitted on the ground of not 

She could not stare at him enough. His hair had 
grown gray and his back bent; he must have suffeFed. 
But he still had his friendly face and his cheerful 
spirit. He was still the same Captain Lennart who 
had led her forward to the altar, as a bride, and 
danced at her wedding. She felt sure he would still 
stop and chat with everybody he met on the road 
and throw a copper to every child; he would still 
say to every wrinkled old woman that she grew 
younger and prettier ever day; and he would still 
sometimes place himself on a barrel and play the 
fiddle for those who danced about the Maypole. 

"Well, Mother Karin," he began, "are you afraid 
to look at me?" 

He had come especially to hear how it was in his 
home, and whether they expected him. They must 
know that he had worked out his time. 

The innkeeper's wife gave him the best of news. 
His wife had worked like a man. She had leased 
the estate from the new owner, and everything had 
succeeded for her. The children were healthy, and 
it was a pleasure to see them. And of course they 
expected him. His wife was a hard woman, who 
never spoke of what she thought, but she knew that 
no one was allowed to eat with Captain Lennart's 
spoon or to sit in his chair while he was away. 
This spring, no day had passed without her coming 
out to the stone at the top of Broby hill and looking 
down the road. And she had put in order new 
lothes for him, home-woven clothes, on which she 



herself had done nearly all the work. By that one 
could see that he was expected, even if she said 

"They don't believe it, then?" said Captain Len- 

" No, captain," answered the peasant woman. " No- 
body believes it." 

Then Captain Lennart would stop no longer ; then 
he wished to go home. 

It happened that outside the door he met some 
dear old friends. The pensioners at Ekeby had just 
come to the inn. Sintram had invited them thither 
to celebrate his birthday. And the pensioners did 
not hesitate a minute before shaking the convict's 
hand and welcoming him home. Even Sintram did 

" Dear Lennart," he said, " were you certain that 
God had any meaning in it all? " 

" Do you not think I know," cried Captain Lennart, 
" that it was not our Lord who saved you from the 

The others laughed. But Sintram was not at all 
angry. He was pleased when people spoke of his 
compact with the devil. 

Yes, then they took Captain Lennart in with them 
again to empty a glass of welcome ; after, he could 
go his way. But it went badly for him. He had not 
drunk such treacherous things for five years. Per- 
haps he had eaten nothing the whole day, and was 
exhausted by his long journey on foot. The result 
was that he was quite confused after a couple of 

When the pensioners had got him into a state 
when he no longer knew what he was doing, they 


krced on him glass after glass, and they meant no 
m by it; it was with good intention towards him, 
) had not tasted anything good for five years. 

Otherwise he was one of the most sober of men. 
It is also easy to understand that he had no intention 
to get drunk; he was to have gone home to wife and 
children. But instead he was lying on the bench in 
the bar-room, and was sleeping there. 

While he lay there, temptingly unconscious, Gosta 
took a piece of charcoal and a httle cranberry-juice 
and painted him. He gave him the face of a crim- 
inal; he thought that most suitable for one who 
came direct from jail. He painted a black eye, drew 
a red scar across his nose, plastered his hair down on 
his forehead in matted tangles, and smeared his whole 

They laughed at it for a while, then Gosta wished 
to wash it off. 
1 "Let it be," said Sintram, "so that he can see it 
Brhen he wakes. It will amuse him." 
r So they left it as it was, and thought no more of 
the captain. The feasting lasted the whole night. 
They broke up at daybreak. There was more wine 
than sense in their heads. 

The question was what they should do with Captain 
Lennart, " We will go home with him," said Sintram. 
"Think how glad his wife will be! It will be a 
pleasure to see her Joy. I am moved when I think 
of it. Let us go home with him ! " 

They were all moved at the thought Heavens, 
how glad she would be ! 

They shook life into Captain Lennart and lifted 
him into one of the carriages which the sleepy 
torooms had long since driven up. And so the whole 


mob drove up to Helgesater; some of them, half- 
asleep, nearly fell out of the carriage, others sang to 
keep awake. They looked little better than a com- 
pany of tramps, with dull eyes and swollen faces. 

They arrived at last, left the horses in the back- 
yard and marched with a certain solemnity up to the 
steps. Beerencreutz and Julius supported Captain 
Lennart between them. 

"Pull yourself together, Lennart," they said to 
him, " you are at home. Don't you see that you 're 
at home?" 

He got his eyes open and was almost sober. He 
was touched that they had accompanied him home. 

" Friends," he said, and stopped to speak to them 
all, " have asked God, friends, why so much evil has 
passed over me." 

" Shut up, Lennart, don't preach ! " cries Beeren- 

"Let him go on," says Sintram. "He speaks 

" Have asked Him and not understood ; understand 
now. He wanted to show me what friends I had ; 
friends who follow me home to see mine and my 
wife's joy. For my wife is expecting me. What 
are five years of misery compared to that? " 

Now hard fists pounded on the door. The pen- 
sioners had no time to hear more. 

Within there was commotion. The maids awoke 
and looked out. They threw on their clothes, but 
did not dare to open for that crowd of men. At last 
the bolt was drawn. The captain's wife herself came 

" What do you want? " she asked. 

It was Beerencreutz who answered : -* 



"We are here with your husband." 

They pushed forward Captain Lennart, and she 
saw him reel towards her, drunk, with a prize-fighter's 
face; and behind him she saw the crowd of drunken, 
reeling men. 

She took a step back; he followed with out- 
stretched arms. " You left me as a thief," she cried, 
" and come home as a vagabond." Whereupon she 
turned to go in. 

He did not understand. He wished to follow her, 
but she struck him a blow on the breast. 

■' Do you think that I will receive such a man as 
you as master in my house and over my children?" 

The door slammed and the key turned in the lock. 

Captain Lennart threw himself against the door and 
began to shake it. 

The pensioners could not help it, they began to 
laugh. He had been so sure of his wife, and now 
she would have nothing to do with him. It was 
absurd, they thought. 

When Captain Lennart heard them laughing, he 
rushed after them and wished to beat them. They 
ran away and leaped into their carriages, he after 
them; but in his eagerness he stumbled over a stone 
and fell. He got up again, but pursued them no 
farther. A thought struck him in his confusion. 
In this world nothing happens without God's will, 

" Where wilt thou lead me ? " he said. " I am a 
feather, driven by thy breath. I am thy plaything. 
Whither wilt thou send me? Why dost thou shut 
the doors of my home to me?" 

He turned away from his home, believing that it 
i God's will. 


When the sun rose he stood at the top of Broby 
hill and looked out over the valley. Ah, little did 
the poor people in the valley know that their res- 
cuer was near. No mothers as yet lifted their chil- 
dren on their arms that they might see him as he 
came. The cottages were not clean and in order, 
with the black hearth hidden by fragrant juniper. 
As yet the men did not work with eager industry 
in the fields that his eyes might be gladdened by 
the sight of cared-for crops and well-dug ditches. 

Alas, where he stood his sorrowful eyes saw the rav- 
ages of the drought, how the crops were burned up, 
and how the people scarcely seemed to trouble them- 
selves to prepare the earth for the coming year. He 
looked up at the blue mountains, and the sharp 
morning sun showed him the blackened stretches 
where the forest-fires had passed. He understood 
by many small signs, by the tumble-down fences, by 
the small amount of wood which had been carted 
home and sawed, that the people were not looking 
after their affairs, that want had come, and that they 
sought consolation in indifference and brandy. 

Captain Lennart stood there on Broby hill and 
began to think that God perhaps needed him. He 
was not called home by his wife. 

The pensioners could not at all understand what 
their fault had been ; Sintram held his tongue. His 
wife was much blamed through all the neighborhood, 
because she had been too proud to receive such a 
good husband. People said that any one who tried 
to talk to her of him was instantly interrupted. She 
could not bear to hear his name spoken. Captain 
Lennart did nothing to give her other thoughts. 

It was a day later. 



An old peasant is lying on his death-bed. He has 
taken the sacrament, and his strength is gone ; he 
must die. 

Restless as one who is to set off on a long journey, 
he has his bed moved from the kitchen to the bed- 
room and from the bedroom back to the kitchen. 
By that they understand, more than by the heavy 
rattling and the failing eyes, that his time has come. 

Round about him stand his wife, his children, and 
servants. He has been fortunate, rich, esteemed. 
He is not forsaken on his death-bed. The old man 
speaks of himself as if he stood in the presence of 
God, and with sighs and confirming words those 
about him bear witness that he speaks the truth. 

" I have been an industrious worker and a kind 
master," he says. " I have loved my wife like my 
right hand. I have not let my children grow up 
without discipline and care. I have not drunk, I 
have not moved my boundary line. I liave not 
hurried my horse up the hills. I have not let the 
cows starve in winter. I have not let the sheep be 
tortured by their wool in summer." 

And round about him the weeping servants repeat 
like an echo: " He has been a kind master. He has 
not hurried the horse up the hills, nor let the sheep 
sweat in their woo! in summer." 

But through the door unnoticed a poor man has 
come in to ask for a little food. He also hears the 
words of the dying man from where he stands silent 
by the door. 

And the sick man resumes: "I have opened up 
the forest, I have drained the meadows. I drove the 
plough in straight furrows. I built three times as 

; a bam for three times as big a harvest as in my 


father's time. Of shining money I had three silver 
goblets made ; my father only made one. God shall 
give me a good place in his heaven." 

" Our Lord will receive our master well," say the 

The man by the door hears the words, and terror 
fills him who for five long years has been God's 

He goes up to the sick man and takes his hand. 

" Friend, friend," he says, and his voice trembles, 
" have you considered who the Lord is before whose 
face you soon must appear? He is a great God, a 
terrible God. The earth is his pasture. The storm 
his horse. Wide heavens shake under the weight of 
his foot. And you stand before him and say : ' I 
have ploughed straight furrows, I have sowed rye, I 
have chopped wood.' Will you praise yourself to 
him and compare yourself to him } You do not know 
how mighty the Lord is to whose kingdom you are 

" Do not come before your God with big words!" 
continues the wayfarer. " The mighty on the earth 
are like threshed-out straw in his barn. His day's 
work is to make suns. He has dug out oceans and 
raised up mountains. Bend before him ! Lie low in 
the dust before your Lord, your God ! Catch like a 
child at the hem of his garment and beg for protec- 
tion ! Humble yourself before your Creator! " 

The sick man's eyes stand wide-open, his hands are 
clasped, but his face lights up and the rattling ceases. 

"Soul, soul," cries the man, "as surely as you 
now in your last hour humble yourself before your 
God, will he take you like a child on his arm and 
carry you into the glory of his heaven." 


The old man gives a last sigh, and all is over. 
Captain Lennart bends his head and prays. Every 
one in the room prays with heavy sighs. 

When they look up the old peasant lies in quiet 
peace. His eyes seem still to shine with the reflec- 
tion of glorious visions, his mouth smiles, his face is 
beautiful. He has seen God. 

" He has seen God," says the son, and closes the 
dead man's eyes. 

** He saw heaven opening," sob the children and 

The old wife lays her shaking hand on Captain 

" You helped him over the worst, captain." 

It was that hour which drove Captain Lennart out 
among the people. Else he would have gone home 
and let his wife see his real face, but from that time 
he believed that God needed him. He became God's 
wayfarer, who came with help to the poor. Distress 
was great, and there was much suffering which good 
sense and kindness could help better than gold and 

Captain Lennart came one day to the poor peas- 
ants who lived in the neighborhood of Gurlitta Cliff. 
Among them there was great want; there were no 
more potatoes, and the rye could not be sown, as 
they had no seed. 

Then Captain Lennart took a little boat and rowed 
across the lake to Fors and asked Sintram to give 
them rye and potatoes. Sintram received him well : 
he took him to the big, well-stocked g^ain-houses and 
down into the cellar, where the potatoes of last year's 
crop were, and let him fill all the bags and sacks he 
had with him. 


But when Sintram saw the little boat, he thought 
that it was too small for such a load. He had the 
sacks carried to one of his big boats, and his servant, 
big Mons, row it across the lake. Captain Lennart 
had only his empty boat to attend to. 

He came however after Mons, for the latter was a 
master of rowing and a giant in strength. Captain 
Lennart sits and dreams, while he rows across the 
beautiful lake, and thinks of the little seed-corns' 
wonderful fate. They were to be thrown out on the 
black earth among stones and stubble, but they 
would sprout and take root in the wilderness. He 
thinks how the soft, light-green shoots will cover the 
earth, and how, finally, when the ears are filled with 
soft, sweet kernels, the scythe will pass, and the straws 
fall, and the flail thunder over them, and the mill 
crush the kernels to meal, and the meal be baked 
into bread, — ah, how much hunger will be satisfied 
by the grain in the boat in front of him ! 

Sintram's servant landed at the pier of the Gurlitta 
people, and many hungry men came down to the boat 

Then the man said, as his master had ordered : — 

" The master sends you malt and grain, peasants. 
He has heard that you have no brandy." 

Then the people became as mad. They rushed 
down to the boat and ran out into the water to seize 
on bags and sacks, but that had never been Captain 
Lennart's meaning. He had now come, and he was 
furious when he saw what they were doing. He 
wanted to have the potatoes for food, and the rye for 
seed; he had never asked for malt 

He called to the people to leave the sacks alone, 
but they did not obey. 

" May the rye turn to sand in your mouths, and the 


potatoes to stone in your throats ! " he cried, for he 
was very angry because they had taken the grain. 

It looked as if Captain Lennart had worked a 
miracle. Two women, who were fighting for a bag, 
tore a hole in it and found only sand ; the men who 
lifted up the potato-sacks, felt how heavy they were, 
as if filled with stones. 

It was all sand and stones, only sand and stones. 
The people stood in silent terror of God's miracle- 
worker who had come to them. Captain Lennart 
was himself for a moment seized with astonishment. 
Only Mons laughed. 

** Go home, fellow," said Captain Lennart, " before 
the peasants understand that there has never been 
anything but sand in these sacks; otherwise I am 
afraid they will sink your boat." 

" I am not afraid," said the man. 

" Go," said Captain Lennart, with such an imperious 
voice that he went. 

Then Captain Lennart let the people know that 
Sintram had fooled them, but they would not believe 
anything but that a miracle had happened. The 
story of it spread soon, and as the people's love of 
the supernatural is great, it was generally believed 
that Captain Lennart could work wonders. He won 
great power among the peasants, and they called 
him God's wayfarer. 




It was a beautiful evening in August. The Lofven 
lay like a mirror, haze veiled the mountains, it was 
the cool of the evening. 

There came Beerencreutz, the colonel with the 
white moustaches, short, strong as a wrestler, and 
with a pack of cards in his coat pocket, to the shore 
of the lake, and sat down in a flat-bottomed boat 
With him were Major Anders Fuchs, his old brother- 
at-arms, and little Ruster, the flute-player, who had 
been drummer in the Varmland chasseurs^ and during 
many years had followed the colonel as his friend 
and servant. 

On the other shore of the lake lies the churchyard, 
the neglected churchyard, of the Svartsjo parish, 
sparsely set with crooked, rattling iron crosses, full 
of hillocks like an unploughed meadow, overgrown 
with sedges and striped grasses, which had been 
sowed there as a reminder that no man's life is like 
another's, but changes like the leaf of the grass. 
There are no gravel walks there, no shading trees 
except the big linden on the forgotten grave of some 
old priest. A stone wall, rough and high, encloses 
the miserable field. Miserable and desolate is the 
churchyard, ugly as the face of a miser, which has 
withered at the laments of those whose happiness he 



has stolen. And yet they who rest there are blessed, 
they who have been sunk into consecrated earth 
to the sound of psalms and prayers. Acquilon, the 
gambler, he who died last year at Ekeby, had had 
to be buried outside the wall. That man, who once 
had been so proud and courtly, the brave warrior, 
the bold hunter, the gambler who held fortune in his 
hand, he had ended by squandering his children's 
inheritance, all that he had gained himself, all that 
his wife had saved. Wife and children he had for- 
saken many years before, to lead the life of a pen- 
sioner at Ekeby. One evening in the past summer 
he had played away the farm which gave them their 
means of subsistence. Rather than to pay his debt 
he had shot himself. But the suicide's body was 
buried outside the moss-grown wall of the miserable 

Since he died the pensioners had only been twelve ; 
since he died no one had come to take the place of 
the thirteenth, — no one but the devil, who on Christ- 
mas Eve had crept out of the furnace. 

The pensioners had found his fate more bitter than 
that of his' predecessors. Of course they knew that 
one of them must die each year. What harm was 
there in that? Pensioners may not be old. Can 
their dim eyes no longer distinguish the cards, can 
their trembling hands no longer lift the glass, what 
is life for them, and what are they for life ? But to 
lie like a dog by the churchyard wall, where the 
protecting sods may not rest in peace, but are 
trodden by grazing sheep, wounded by spade and 
plough, where the wanderer goes by without slacken- 
ing his pace, and where the children play without 
subduing their laughter and jests, — to rest there. 


where the stone wall prevents the sound from com- 
ing when the angel of the day of doom wakes with 
his trumpet the dead within, — oh, to lie there ! 

Beerencreutz rows his boat over the Lofven. He 
passes in the evening over the lake of my dreams, 
about whose shores I have seen gods wander, and 
from whose depths my magic palace rises. He rows 
by Lagon's lagoons, where the pines stand right 
up from the water, growing on low, circular shoals, 
and where the ruin of the tumble-down Viking 
castle still remains on the steep summit of the island ; 
he rows under the pine grove on Borg*s point, where 
one old tree still hangs on thick roots over the 
cleft, where a mighty bear had been caught .and where 
old mounds and graves bear witness of the age 
of the place. 

He rows to the other side of the point, gets out 
below the churchyard, and then walks over mowed 
fields, which belong to the count at Borg, to Acqui- 
lon's grave. 

Arrived there, he bends down and pats the turf, 
as one lightly caresses the blanket under which a 
sick friend is lying. Then he takes out a pack of 
cards and sits down beside the grave. 

" He is so lonely outside here, Johan Fredrik. He 
must long sometimes for a game." 

'' It is a sin and a shame that such a man shall 
lie here," says the great bear-hunter, Anders Fuchs, 
and sits down at his side. 

But little Ruster, the flute-player, speaks with 
broken voice, while the tears run from his small red 

" Next to you, colonel, next to you he was the 
finest man I have ever known." 



These three worthy men sit round the grave and 
deal the cards seriously and with zeal. 

I look out over the world, I see many graves. 
There rest the mighty ones of the earth, weighed 
down by marble. Funeral marches thunder over 
them. Standards are sunk over those graves. I see 
the graves of those who have been much loved. 
Flowers, wet with tears, caressed with kisses, rest 
lightly on their green sods. I see forgotten graves, 
arrogant graves, lying resting-places, and others 
which say nothing, but never before did I see the 
right-bower and the Joker with the bells in his cap 
offered as entertainment to a grave's occupant. 

" Johan Fredrik has won," says the colonel, proudly. 
" Did I not know it? I taught him to play. Yes, 
now we are dead, we three, and he alone alive." 

Thereupon he gathers together the cards, rises, and 
goes, followed by the others, back to Ekeby. 

May the dead man have known and felt that not 
every one has forgotten him or his forsaken grave. 

Strange homage wild hearts bring to them they 
love; but he who lies outside the wall, he whose 
dead body was not allowed to rest in consecrated 
ground, he ought to be glad that not every one has 
rejected him. 

Friends, children of men. when I die I shall surely 
rest in the middle of the churchyard, in the tomb of 
my ancestors. I shall not have robbed my family 
of their means of subsistence, nor lifted my hand 
against my own life, but certainly I have not won such 

love, surely will no one do as much for me as the 
oners did for that culprit It is certain that no 
vill come in the evening, when the sun sets and 
lonely and dreary in the gardens of the dead, 



to place between my bony fingers the many-colored 

Not even will any one come, which would please 
me more, — for cards tempt me little, — with fiddle 
and bow to the grave, that my spirit, which wanders 
about the mouldering dust, may rock in the flow of 
melody like a swan on glittering waves. 




Marianne Sinclair sat one quiet afternoon at the 
end of August in her room and arranged her old 
letters and other papers. 

Round about her was disorder. Great leather 
trunks and iron bound boxes had been dragged into 
the room. Her clothes covered the chairs and sofas. 
From attics and wardrobes and from the stained 
chests of drawers everything had been taken out, 
glistening silk and linen, jewels spread out to be pol- 
ished, shawls and furs to be selected and inspected. 

Marianne was making herself ready for a long jour- 
ney. She was not certain if she should ever return 
to ^er home. She was at a turning-point in her life 
and therefore burned a mass of old letters and diaries. 
She did not wish to be weighed down with records of 
the past. 

As she sits there, she finds a bundle of old verses. 
They were copies of old ballads, which her mother 
used to sing to her when she was little. She untied 
the string which held them together, and began to 

She smiled sadly when she had read for a while; 
the old songs spoke strange wisdom. 

Have no faith in happiness, have no faith in the 
appearance of happiness, have no faith in roses. 


" Trust not laughter," they said. " See, the lovely 
maiden Valborg drives in a golden coach, and her 
lips smile, but she is as sorrowful as if hoofs and 
wheels were passing over her life's happiness." 

" Trust not the dance," they said. " Many a foot 
whirls lightly over polished floor, while the heart is 
heavy as lead." 

" Trust not the jest," they said. " Many a one goes 
to the feast with jesting lips, while she longs to die for 

In what shall one believe? In tears and sorrow! 

He who is sorrowful can force himself to smile, 
but he who is glad cannot weep. 

But joy is only sorrow disguised. There is nothing 
real on earth but sorrow. 

She went to the window and looked out into the 
garden, where her parents were walking. They went 
up and down the broad paths and talked of everything 
which met their eyes, of the grass and the birds. 

" See," said Marianne, " there goes a heart which 
sighs with sorrow, because it has never been so happy 

And she thought suddenly that perhaps everything 
really depended on the person himself, that sorrow 
and joy depended upon the different ways of looking 
at things. She asked herself if it were joy or sorrow 
which had passed over her that year. She hardly 
knew herself. 

She had lived through a bitter time. Her soul had 
been sick. She had been bowed down to the earth 
by her deep humiliation. For when she returned to 
her home she had said to herself, ** I will remember 
no evil of my father." But her heart did not agree. 
" He has caused me such mortal pain," it said ; " he 


s parted me from him I loved ; he made me desper- 
ate when he struck my mother. I wish him no harm, 
but I am afraid of him." And then she noticed how 
she had to force herself to sit still when her father 
sat down beside her; she longed to flee from him. 
She tried to control herself; she talked with him as 
usual and was almost always with him. She could 
conquer herself, but she suffered beyond endurance. 
She ended by detesting everything about him: his 
coarse loud voice, his heavy tread, his big hands. 
She wished him no harm, but she could no longer be 
near him without a feeling of fear and repulsion. 
Her repressed heart revenged itself. "You would 
not let me love," it said, " but I am nevertheless your 
master; you shall end by hating." 

Accustomed as she was to observe everything 
which stirred within her, she saw too well how this 
repulsion became stronger, how it grew each day. 
At the same time she seemed to be tied forever to 
her home. She knew that it would be best for her 
to go away among people, but she could not bring 
herself to it since her illness. It would never be any 
better. She would only be more and more tortured, 
and some day her self-control would give way, and 
she would burst out before her father and show him 
the bitterness of her heart, and then there would be 
strife and unhappiness. 

So had the spring and early summer passed. In 
July she had become engaged to Baron Adrian, in 
order to have her own home. 

One fine forenoon Baron Adrian had galloped up 
to the house, riding a magnificent horse. His hussar 
jacket had shone in the sun, his spurs and sword and 
belt had glittered and flashed, to say nothing of his 
own fresh face and smiling eyes. 


Melchior Sinclair had stood on the steps and wel- 
comed him when he came. Marianne had sat at the 
window and sewed. She had seen him come, and now 
heard every word he said to her father. 

** Good-day, Sir Sunshine ! " cried Melchior. " How 
fine you are ! You are not out to woo ? " 

•*Yes, yes, uncle, that is just what I am," he 
answered, and laughed. 

** Is there no shame in you, boy? What have you 
to maintain a wife with ? " 

" Nothing, uncle. Had I anything, I would never 
get married." 

**Do you say that, do you say that. Sir Sunshine? 
But that fine jacket, — you have had money enough 
to get you that?" 

" On credit, uncle." 

" And the horse you are riding, that is worth a lot 
of money, I can tell you. Where did you get that?" 

" The horse is not mine, uncle." 

This was more than Melchior could withstand. 

" God be with you, boy, " he said. ** You do 
indeed need a wife who has something. If you can 
win Marianne, take her." 

So everything had been made clear between them 
before Baron Adrian had even dismounted. But 
Melchior Sinclair knew very well what he was about, 
for Baron Adrian was a fine fellow. 

Then the suitor had come in to Marianne and im- 
mediately burst out with his errand. 

" Oh, Marianne, dear Marianne. I have already 
spoken to uncle. I would like so much to have you 
for my wife. Say that you will, Marianne. " 

She had got at the truth. The old baron^ his father, 
had let himself be cheated into buying some used-up 


mines again. The old baron had been buying mines 
all his life, and never had anything been found in them. 
His mother was anxious, he himself was in debt, and 
now he was proposing to her in order to thereby save 
the home of his ancestors and his hussar jacket. 

His home was Hedcby; it lay on the other side of 
the lake, almost opposite Bjbrne. She knew hira 
well ; they were of the same age and playmates. 

" You might marry me, Marianne. I lead such a 
wretched life. I have to ride on borrowed horses 
and cannot pay my tailor's bills. It can't go on. I 
shall have to resign, and then I shall shoot myself." 

"But, Adrian, what kind of a marriage would it 
be? We are not in the least in love with one 

" Oh, as for love, I care nothing for all that non- 
sense," he had then explained. " I like to ride a 
good horse and to hunt, but I am no pensioner, I am 
a worker. If I only could get some money, so that I 
could take charge of the estate at home and give my 
mother some peace in her old age, I should be happy. 
I should both plough and sow, for [ like work." 

Then he had looked at her with his honest eyes, 
and she knew that he spoke the truth and that he 
was a man to depend upon. She engaged herself to 
him, chiefly to get away from her home, but also 
because she had always iiked him. 

But never would she forget that month which fol- 
lowed the August evening when her engagement 
was announced, — all that time of madness. 

Baron Adrian became each day sadder and more 
silent. He came very often to Bjorne, sometimes 
several times a day, but she could not help noticing 
low depressed he was. With others he could still 


jesty but with her he was impossible, silent and bored. 
She understood what was the matter : it was not so 
easy as he had believed to marry an ugly woman. 
No one knew better than she how ugly she was. She 
had shown him that she did not want any caresses or 
love-making, but he was nevertheless tortured by the 
thought of her as his wife, and it seemed worse to 
him day by day. Why did he care? Why did he 
not break it oflf? She had given hints which were 
plain enough. She could do nothing. Her father 
had told her that her reputation would not bear any 
more ventures in being engaged. Then she had de- 
spised them both, and any way seemed good enough 
to get away from them. But only a couple of days 
after the great engagement feast a sudden and won- 
derful change had come. 

In the path in front of the steps at Bjorne lay a big 
stone, which caused much trouble and vexation. 
Carriages rolled over it, horses and people tripped 
on it, the maids who came with heavy milk cans ran 
against it and spilled the milk ; but the stone remained, 
because it had already lain there so many years. It 
had been there in the time of Sinclair's parents, long 
before any one had thought of building at Bjorne. 
He did not see why he should take it up. 

But one day at the end of August, two maids, who 
were carrying a heavy tub, tripped over the stone ; 
they fell, hurt themselves badly, and the feeling 
against the stone grew strong. 

It was early in the morning. Melchior was out on 
his morning walk, but as the workmen were about the 
house between eight and nine, Madame Gustava had 
several of them come and dig up the big stone. 



They came with iron levers and spades, dug and 
strained, and at last got the old disturber of the peace 
up out of his hole. Then they carried him away to 
the back yard. It was work for six men. 

The stone was hardly taken up before Melchior 
came home. You can believe that he was angry. It 
was no longer the same place, he thought. Who had 
dared to move the stone? Madame Gustava had 
given the order. Those women had no heart in their 
bodies. Did not his wife know that he loved that 
stone ? 

And then he went direct to the stone, lifted it, and 
carried it across the yard to the place where it had 
lain, and there he flung it down. And it was a stone 
which six men could scarcely lift. That deed was 
mightily admired through the whole of Varmland. 

While he carried the stone across the yard, Mari- 
anne had stood at the dining-room window and looked 
at him. He was her master, that terrible man with 
his boundless strength, — an unreasonable, capricious 
master, who thought of nothing but his own pleasure. 

They were in the midst of breakfast, and she had a 
carving-knife in her hand. Involuntarily she lifted 
the knife. 

Madame Gustava seized her by the wrist. 

" Marianne ! " 

" What is the matter, mother? " 

"Oh, Marianne, you looked so strange! I was 

Marianne looked at her. She was a little, dry 
woman, gray and wrinkled already at fifty. She 
loved like a dog, without remembering knocks and 
blows. She was generally good-humored, and yet 
she made a melancholy impression. She was like a 


Storm-whipped tree by the sea ; she had never had 
quiet to grow. She had learned to use mean shifts, 
to lie when needed, and often made herself out more 
stupid than she was to escape taunts. In everything 
she was the tool of her husband. 

"Would you grieve much if father died?" asked 

" Marianne, you are angry with your father. You 
are always angry with him. Why cannot everything 
be forgotten, since you have got a new fianc6 ? " 

" Oh, mother, it is not my fault. Can I help shud- 
dering at him ? Do you not see what he is ? Why 
should I care for him? He is violent, he is uncouth, 
he has tortured you till you are prematurely old. 
Why is he our master? He behaves like a madman. 
Why shall I honor and respect him? He is not 
good, he is not charitable. I know that he is strong. 
He is capable of beating us to death at any moment. 
He can turn us out of the house when he will. Is 
that why I should love him? " 

But then Madame Gustava had been as never before.' 
She had found strength and courage and had spoken 
weighty words. 

" You must take care, Marianne. It almost seems 
to me as if your father was right when he shut you 
out last winter. You shall see that you will be 
punished for this. You must teach yourself to bear 
without hating, Marianne, to suffer without revenge." 

" Oh, mother, I am so unhappy." 

Immediately after, they heard in the hall the sound 
of a heavy fall. 

They never knew if Melchior Sinclair had stood on 
the steps and through the open dining-room door had 
heard Marianne's words, or if it was only over-exertion 


which had been the cause of the stroke. When they 
came out he lay unconscious. They never dared to 
ask him the cause. He himself never made any sign 
that he had heard anything. Marianne never dared 
to think the thought out that she had involuntarily 
revenged herself. But the sight of her father lying on 
the very steps where she had learnt to hate him took 
all bitterness from her heart 

He soon returned to consciousness, and when he 
had kept quiet a few days, he was like himself — and 
yet not at all like. 

Marianne saw her parents walking together in the 
garden. It was always so now. He never went out 
alone, grumbled at guests and at everything which 
separated him from his wife. Old age had come upon 
him. He could not bring himself to write a letter; 
his wife had to do it. He never decided anything by 
himself, but asked her about everything and let it be 
as she decided. And he was always gentle and kind. 
He noticed the change which had come over him, and 
how happy his wife was. " She is well off now," he 
said one day to Marianne, and pointed to Madame 

" Oh, dear Melchior," she cried, "you know very 
well that I would rather have you strong again." 

And she really meant it. It was her joy to speak 
of him as he was in the days of his strength. She told 
how he held his own in riot and revel as well as any 
of the Ekeby pensioners, how he had done good 
business and earned much money, just when she 
thought that he in his madness would lose house and 
lands. But Marianne knew that she was happy in spite 
of all her complaints. To be everything to her husband 
enough for her. They both looked old, pre- 


maturely broken. Marianne thought that she could 
see their future life. He would get gradually weaker 
and weaker; other strokes would make him more 
helpless, and she would watch over him until death 
parted them. But the end might be far distant 
Madame Gustava could enjoy her happiness in peace 
still for a time. It must be so, Marianne thought 
Life owed her some compensation. 

For her too it was better. No fretting despair forced 
her to marry to get another master. Her wounded 
heart had found peace. She had to acknowledge that 
she was a truer, richer, nobler person than before; 
what could she wish undone of what had happened? 
Was it true that all suffering was good? Could every- 
thing be turned to happiness? She had begun to 
consider everything good which could help to develop 
her to a higher degree of humanity. The. old songs 
were not right. Sorrow was not the only lasting 
thing. She would now go out into the world and look 
about for some place where she was needed. If her 
father had been in his old mood, he would never have 
allowed her to break her engagement Now Madame 
Gustava had arranged the matter. Marianne had even 
been allowed to give Baron Adrian the money he 

She could think of him too with pleasure, she would 
be free from him. With his bravery and love of life 
he had always reminded her of Gosta ; now she should 
see him glad again. He would again be that sunny 
knight who had come in his glory to her father's 
house. She would get him lands where he could 
plough and dig as much as his heart desired, and 
she would see him lead a beautiful bride to the altar. 

With such thoughts she sits down and writes to 


give him back his freedom. She writes gentle, pur- 
suasive words, sense wrapped up in jests, and yet so 
that he must understand how seriously she means it. 

While she writes she hears hoof-beats on the road. 

** My dear Sir Sunshine," she thinks, " it is the last 

Baron Adrian immediately after comes into her 

"What, Adrian, are you coming in here?" and she 
looks dismayed at all her packing. 

He is shy and embarrassed and stammers out an 

'* I was just writing to you," she says. " Look, you 
might as well read it now." 

He takes the letter and she sits and watches him 
while he reads. She longs to see his face light up 
with joy. 

But he has not read far before he grows fiery red, 
throws the letter on the floor, stamps on it, and swears 
terrible oaths. 

Marianne trembles slightly. She is no novice in 
the study of love ; ' still she has not before tmderstood 
this inexperienced boy, this great child. 

" Adrian, dear Adrian," she says, " what kind of a 
comedy have you played with me ? Come and tell 
me the truth." 

He came and almost suffocated her vdth caresses. 
Poor boy, so he had cared and longed. 

After a while she looked out. There walked 
Madame Gustava and talked with her husband of 
flowers and birds, and here she sat and chatted of 
love. " Life has let us both feel its serious side," she 
thought, and smiled sadly. " It wants to comfort us ; 
we have each got her big child to play with." 


However, it was good to be loved. It was sweet 
to hear him whisper of the magical power which she 
possessed, of how he had been ashamed of what he 
had said at their first conversation. He had not 
then known what charm she had. Oh, no man 
could be near her without loving her, but she had 
frightened him ; he had felt so strangely subdued. 

It was not happiness, nor unhappiness, but she 
would try to live with this man. 

She began to understand herself, and thought of the 
words of the old songs about the turtle-dove. It never 
drinks clear water, but first muddies it with its foot 
so that it may better suit its sorrowful spirit. So too 
should she never go to the spring of life and drink 
pure, unmixed happiness. Troubled with sorrow, life 
pleased her best. 




My pale friend, Death the deliverer, came in August, 
when the nights were white with moonlight, to the 
house of Captain Uggla. But he did not dare to go 
direct into that hospitable home, for they are few 
who love him, and he does not wish to be greeted 
with weeping, rather with quiet joy, — he who comes to 
set free the soul from the fetters of pain, he who 
delivers the soul from the burden of the body and lets 
it enjoy the beautiful life of the spheres. 

Into the old grove behind the house, crept Death. 
In the grove, which then was young and full of green, 
my pale friend hid himself by day, but at night he 
stood at the edge of the wood, white and pale, with 
his scythe glittering in the moonlight. 

Death stood there, and the creatures of the night 
saw him. Evening after evening the people at Berga 
heard how the fox howled to foretell his coming. 
The snake crawled up the sandy path to the very 
house. He could not speak, but they well under- 
stood that he came as a presage. And in the apple- 
tree outside the window of the captain's wife the owl 
hooted. For everything in nature feels Death and 

It happened that the judge from Munkerud, who 
had been at a festival at the Bro deanery, drove by 


Berga at two o'clock in the night and saw a candle 
burning in the window of the gnest-room. He plainty 
saw the yellow flame and the white candle, and, won- 
dering, he afterwards told of die candle which had 
burned in the summer night 

The gay daughters at Bei^ laughed and said that 
the judge had the gift of second sight, for there were 
no candles in the house, they were already burned up 
in March; and the captain swore that no one had 
slept in the guest-room for da3rs and weeks ; but his 
wife was silent and grew pale, for that white candle 
with the clear flame used to show itself when one of 
her family should be set free by Death. 

A short time after, Ferdinand came home from a 
surveying journey in the northern forests. He came, 
pale and ill with an incurable disease of the lungs, 
and as soon as his mother saw him, she knew that her 
son must die. 

He must go, that good son who had never given 
his parents a sorrow. He must leave earth's pleas- 
ures and happiness, and the beautiful, beloved bride 
who awaited him, and the rich estates which should 
have been his. 

At last, when my pale friend had waited a month, 
he took heart and went one night up to the house. 
He thought how hunger and privation had there been 
met by glad faces, so why should not he too be 
received with joy? 

That night the captain's wife, who lay awake, heard 
a knocking on the window-pane, and she sat up in 
bed and asked: "Who is it who knocks?" 

And the old people tell that Death answered her : 

" It is Death who knocks." 

Then she rose up, opened her window, and saw bats 


and owls fluttering in the moonlight, but Death she 
did not see. 

" Come," she said half aloud, " friend and deliverer ! 
Why have you lingered so long? I have been wait- 
ing. I have called. Come and set my son free ! " 

The next day, she sat by her son's sick-bed and 
spoke to him of the blissfulness of the liberated spirit 
and of its glorious life. 

So Ferdinand died, enchanted by bright visions, 
smiling at the glory to come. 

Death had never seen anything so beautiful. For 
of course there were some who wept by Ferdinand 
Uggla's deathbed ; but the sick man himself smiled at 
the man with the scythe, when he took his place on 
the edge of the bed, and his mother listened to the 
death-rattle as if to sweet music. She trembled lest 
Death should not finish his work ; and when the end 
came, tears fell from her eyes, but they were tears of 
joy which wet her son's stiffened face. 

Never had Death been so feted as at Ferdinand 
Uggla's burial. 

It was a wonderful funeral procession which passed 
under the lindens. In front of the flower-decked 
coffin beautiful children walked and strewed flowers. 
There was no mourning-dress, no crape ; for his mother 
had wished that he who died with joy should not be 
followed to the good refuge by a gloomy funeral pro- 
cession, but by a shining wedding train. 

Following the coffin, went Anna Stjarnhok, the 
dead man's beautiful, glowing bride. She had set a 
bridal wreath on her head, hung a bridal veil over her, 
and arrayed herself in a bridal dress of white, shim- 
mering satin. So adorned, she went to be wedded at 

the grave to a mouldering bridegroom. 



Behind her they came, two by two, dignified old 
ladies and stately men. The ladies came in shining 
buckles and brooches, with strings of milk-white 
pearb and bracelets of gold. Ostrich feathers nodded 
in their bonnets of silk and lace, and from their shoul- 
ders floated thin silken shawb over dresses of many- 
colored satin. And their husbands came in their best 
array, in high-collared coats with gilded buttons, with 
swelling ruffles, and in vests of stiff brocade or richly- 
embroidered velvet. It was a wedding procession; 
the captain's wife had wished it so. 

She herself walked next after Anna Stjamhok, led 
by her husband. If she had possessed a dress of 
shining brocade, she would have worn it ; if she had 
possessed jewels and a gay bonnet, she would have 
worn them too to do honor to her son on his festival 
day. But she only had the black silk dress and the 
yellowed laces which had adorned so many feasts, 
and she wore them here too. 

Although all the guests came in their best array, 
there was not a dry eye when they walked forward to 
the grave. Men and women wept, not so much for 
the dead, as for themselves. There walked the bride; 
there the bridegroom was carried ; there they them- 
selves wandered, decked out for a feast, and yet — 
who is there who walks earth's green pathways and 
does not know that his lot is affliction, sorrow, un- 
happiness, and death. They wept at the thought that 
nothing on earth could save them. 

The captain's wife did not weep ; but she was the 
only one whose eyes were dry. • 

When the prayers were read, and the grave filled in, 
all went away to the carriages. Only the mother and 
Anna Stjarnhok lingered by the grave to bid their 


dead a last good-bye. The older woman sat down on 
the grave-mound, and Anna placed herself at her 

" Anna," said the captain's wife, " I have said to 
God : ' Let Death come and take away my son, let 
him take away him I love mo3t, and only tears of joy 
shall come to my eyes ; with nuptial pomp I will fol- 
low him to his grave, and my red rose-bush, which 
stands outside my chamber-window, will I move to 
him in the grave-yard.' And now it has come to pass 
my son is dead. I have greeted Death like a friend, 
called him by the tenderest names ; I have wept tears 
of joy over my son's dead face, and in the autumn, 
when the leaves are fallen, I shall plant my red rose- 
bush here. But do you know, you who sit here at 
my side, why I have sent such prayers to God? " 

She looked questioningly at Anna Stjarnhok ; but 
the girl sat silent and pale beside her. Perhaps she 
was struggling to silence inward voices which already 
there, on the grave of the dead, began to whisper to 
her that now at last she was free. 

" The fault is yours," said the captain's wife. 

The girl sank down as from a blow. She did not 
answer a word. 

" Anna Stjarnhok, you were once proud and self- 
willed : you played with my son, took him and cast 
him off. But what of that? He had to accept it, as 
well as another. Perhaps too he and we all loved 
your money as much as you. But you came back, 
you came with a blessing to our home; you were 
gentle and mild, strong and kind, when you came 
again. You cherished us with love ; you made us so 
happy, Anna Stjarnhok; and we poor people lay at 
your feet. 


''And yet, and yet I have wished that you had 
not come. Then had I not needed to pray to God 
to shorten my son's life. At Christmas he could have 
borne to lose you, but after he had learnt to know you, 
such as you now are, he would not have had the 

" You know, Anna Stjamhok, who to-day have put 
on your bridal dress to follow my son, that if he had 
lived you would never have followed him in that 
attire to the Bro church, for you did not love him. 

" I saw that you only came out of pity, for you 
wanted to relieve our hard lot. You did not love 
him. Do you not think that I know love, that I see 
it, when it is there, and understand when it is lack- 
ing. Then I thought : * May God take my son's 
life before he has his eyes opened ! ' 

** Oh, if you had loved him ! Oh, if you had never 
come to us and sweetened our lives, when you did 
not love him ! I knew my duty : if he had not died, 
I should have been forced to tell him that vou did 
not love him, that you were marrying him out of pity. 
I must have made him set you free, and then his life's 
happiness would have been gone. That is why I 
prayed to God that he might die, that I should not 
need to disturb the peace of his heart. And I have 
rejoiced over his sunken cheeks, exulted over his 
rattling breath, trembled lest Death should not 
complete his work." 

She stopped speaking, and waited for an answer; 
but Anna Stjarnhok could not speak, she was still 
listening to the many voices in her soul. 

Then the mother cried out in despair : — 

" Oh, how happy are they who may mourn for 
their dead, they who may weep streams of tears ! 1 


must stand with dry eyes by my son's grave, I must 
rejoice over his death ! How unhappy I am ! " 

Then Anna Stjarnhok pressed her hands against 
her breast. She remembered that winter night when 
she had sworn by her love to be these poor people's 
support and comfort, and she trembled. Had it all 
been in vain; was not her sacrifice one of those 
which God accepts? Should it all be turned to a 

But if she sacrificed everything would not God 
then give His blessing to the work, and let her bring 
happiness, be a support, a help, to these people? 

" What is required for you to be able to mourn 
for your son? " she asked. 

" That I shall not believe the testimony of my old 
eyes. If I believed that you loved my son, then I 
would grieve for his death." 

The girl rose up, her eyes burning. She tore off 
her veil and spread it over the grave, she tore off her 
wreath and laid it beside it. 

'* See how I love him ! " she cried. " I give him 
my wreath and veil. I consecrate myself to him. I 
will never belong to another." 

Then the captain's wife rose too. She stood silent 
for a while; her whole body was shaking, and her 
face twitched, but at last the tears came, — tears of 




If dead things love, if earth and water distinguish 
friends from enemies, I should like to possess their 
love. I should like the green earth not to feel my 
step as a heavy burden. I should like her to for- 
give that she for my sake is wounded by plough and 
harrow, and willingly to open for my dead body. 
And I should like the waves, whose shining mirror 
is broken by my oars, to have the same patience 
with me as a mother has with an eager child when 
it climbs up on her knee, careless of the uncrumpled 
silk of her dress. 

The spirit of life still dwells in dead things. Have 
you not seen it? When strife and hate fill the earth, 
dead things must suffer too. Then the waves are 
wild and ravenous ; then the fields are niggardly as a 
miser. But woe to him for whose sake the woods 
sigh and the mountains weep. 

Memorable was the year when the pensioners 
were in power. If one could tell of everything 
which happened that year to the people by Lofven's 
shores a world would be surprised. For then old love 
wakened, then new was kindled. Old hate blazed 
up, and long cherished revenge seized its prey. 

From Ekeby this restless infection went forth ; it 
spread first through the manors and estates, and 
drove men to ruin and to crime. It ran from village 



to village, from cottage to cottage. Everywhere 
hearts became wild, and brains confused. Never did 
the dance whirl so merrily at the cross-roads; never 
was the beer-barrel so quickly emptied ; never was so 
much grain turned into brandy. Never were there so 
many balls ; never was the way shorter front the 
angry word to the knife-thrust. But the uneasiness 
was not only among men. It spread through all liv- 
ing things. Never had wolf and bear ravaged so 
fiercely; never had fox and owl howled so terribly, 
and plundered so boldly; never did the sheep go so 
often astray in the wood ; never did so much sickness 
rage among the cattle. 

He who will see how everything hangs together 
must leave the towns and live in a lonely hut at the 
edge of the forest; then he will iearn to notice 
nature's every sign and to understand how the dead 
things depend on the living. He will see that when 
there is restlessness on the earth, the peace of the dead 
things is disturbed. The people know it. It is in 
such times that the wood-nymph puts out the char- 
coal-kiln, the sea-nymph breaks the boat to pieces, 
the river-sprite sends illness, the goblin starves the 
cow. And it was so that year. Never had the 
spring freshets done so much damage. The mill and 
smithy at Ekeby were not the only offerings. Never 
had the lightning laid waste so much already before 
midsummer — after midsummer came the drought. 

As long as the long days lasted, no rain came. 
From the middle of June till the beginning of Sep- 
tember, the country was bathed in continual sunshine. 

The rain refused to fall, the earth to nourish, the 
winds to blow. Sunshine only streamed down on 

; earth. The grass was not yet high and could 


not grow; the rye was without nourishment, just 
when it should have collected food in its ears; the 
wheat, from which most of the bread was baked, 
never came up more than a few inches; the late 
sowed turnips never sprouted ; not even the potatoes 
could draw sustenance from that petrified earth. 

At such times they begin to be frightened far away 
in the forest huts, and from the mountains the terror 
comes down to the calmer people on the plain. 

" There is some one whom God's hand is seeking 1 " 
say the people. 

And each one beats his breast and says : " Is it I ? 
Is it from horror of me that the rain holds back? 
Is it in wrath against me that the stern earth dries 
up and hardens ? — and the perpetual sunshine, — is it 
to heap coals of fire on my head ? Or if it is not I, 
who is it whom God's hand is seeking?" 

It was a Sunday in August. The service was over. 
The people wandered in groups along the sunny 
roads. On all sides they saw burned woods and 
ruined crops. There had been many forest fires; 
and what they had spared, insects had taken. 

The gloomy people did not lack for subjects of 
conversation. There were many who could tell how 
hard it had been in the years of famine of eighteen 
hundred and eight and nine, and in the cold winter 
of eighteen hundred and twelve, when the sparrows 
froze to death. They knew how to make bread out 
of bark, and how the cows could be taught to eat 

There was one woman who had tried a new kind 
of bread of cranberries and corn-meal. She had a 
sample with her, and let the people taste it. She 
was proud of her invention. 


But over them all floated the same question. It 
stared from every eye, was whispered by every lip : 
" Who is it, O Lord, whom Thy hand seeks?" 

A man in the gloomy crowd which had gone west- 
ward, and struggled up Broby hill, stopped a minute 
before the path which ♦sd up to the house of the 
mean Broby clergyman. He picked up a dry stick 
from the ground and threw it upon the path. 

" Dry as that stick have the prayers been which he 
has given our Lord," said the man. 

He who walked next to him also stopped. He 
took up a dry branch and threw it where the stick 
had fallen. 

** That is the proper offering to that priest," he said. 

The third in the crowd followed the others' 

" He has been like the drought ; sticks and straw 
are all that he has let us keep." 

The fourth said : " We give him back what he has 
given us." 

And the fifth : " For a perpetual disgrace I throw 
this to him. May he dry up and wither away like 
this branch ! " 

" Dry food to the dry priest," said the sixth. 

The people who came after see what they are do- 
ing and hear what they say. Now they get the 
answer to their long questioning. 

** Give him what belongs to him ! He has brought 
the drought on us." 

And each one stops, each one says his word and 
throws his branch before he goes on. 

In the corner by the path there soon lies a pile of 
sticks and straw, — a pile of shame for the Broby 


That was their only revenge. No one lifted his 
hand against the clergyman or said an angry word to 
him. Desperate hearts cast off part of their burden 
by throwing a dry branch on the pile. They did 
not revenge themselves. They only pointed out the 
guilty one to the God of retribution. 

** If we have not worshipped you rightly, it is that 
man's fault. Be pitiful, Lord, and let him alone 
suffer! We mark him with shame and dishonor. 
We are not with him." 

It soon became the custom for every one who 
passed the vicarage to throw a dry branch on the 
pile of shame. 

The old miser soon noticed the pile by the road- 
side. He had it carried away, — some said that he 
heated his stove with it The next day a new pile 
had collected on the same spot, and as soon as he 
had that taken away a new one was begun. 

The dry branches lay there and said: "Shame, 
shame to the Broby clergyman ! " 

Soon the people's meaning became clear to him. 
He understood that they pointed to him as the ori- 
gin of their misfortune. It was in wrath at him God 
let the earth languish. He tried to laugh at them 
and their branches ; but when it had gone on a week, 
he laughed no more. Oh, what childishness ! How 
can those dry sticks injure him? He understood 
that the hate of years sought an opportunity of ex- 
pressing itself What of that? — he was not used to 
love. xi 

For all this he did not become more gentle. He 
had perhaps wished to improve after the old lady 
had visited him ; now he could not He would not 
be forced to it. 


But gradually the pile grew too strong for him. 
He thought of it continually, and the feeling which 
every one cherished took root also in him. He 
watched the pile, counted the branches which had 
been added each day. The thought of it encroached 
upon all other thoughts. The pile was destroying 

Every day he felt more and more the people were 
right. He grew thin and very old in a couple of 
weeks. He suffered from remorse and indisposition. 
But it was as if everything depended on that pile. 
It was as if his remorse would grow silent, and the 
weight of years be lifted off him, if only the pile 
would stop growing. 

Finally he sat there the whole day and watched ; 
but the people were without mercy. At night there 
were always new branches thrown on. 

One day Gosta Berling passed along the road. 
The Broby clergyman sat at the roadside, old and 
haggard. He sat and picked out the dry sticks and 
laid them together in rows and piles, playing with 
them as if he were a child again. Gosta was grieved 
at his misery. 

"What are you doing, pastor?" he says, and leaps 
out of the carriage. 

"Oh, I am sitting here and picking. I am not 
doing anything." 

" You had better go home, and not sit here in the 
dust." ^ 

" It is best that I sit here." 

Then Gosta Berling sits down beside him. 

" It is not so easy to be a priest," he says after a 


" It is all very well down here where there are 
people," answers the clergyman. "It is worse up 

Gosta understands what he means. He knows 
those parishes in Northern Varmland where some- 
times there is not even a house for the clergyman, 
where there are not more than a couple of people in 
ten miles of country, where the clergyman is the 
only educated man. The Broby minister had been 
in such a parish for over twenty years. 

" That is where we are sent when we are young," 
says Gosta. " It is impossible to hold out with such 
a life; and so one is ruined forever. There are 
many who have gone under up there." 

" Yes," says the Broby clergyman ; " a man is 
destroyed by loneliness." 

" A man comes," says Gosta, " eager and ardent, 
exhorts and admonishes, and thinks that all will be 
well, that the people will soon turn to better ways." 

" Yes, yes." 

"But soon he sees that words do not help. 
Poverty stands in the way. Poverty prevents all 

" Poverty," repeats the clergyman, — " poverty has 
ruined my life." 

" The young minister comes up there," continues 
Gosta, "poor as all the others. He says to the 
drunkard : Stop drinking ! " 

" Then the drunkard answers," interrupts the clergy- 
man: "Give me something which is better than 
brandy ! Brandy is furs in winter, coolness in sum- 
mer. Brandy is a warm house and a soft bed. Give 
me those, and I will drink no more." 

" And then," resumes Gosta, " the minister says 


to the thief: You shall not steal; and to the cruel 
husband : You shall not beat your wife ; and to the 
superstitious: You shall believe in God and not in 
devils and goblins. But the thief answers : Give me 
bread; and the cruel husband says: Make us rich, 
and we will not quarrel ; and the superstitious say : 
Teach us better. But who can help them without 

" It is true, true every word," cried the clergyman. 
" They believed in God, but more in the devil, and 
most in the mountain goblin. The crops were all 
turned into the still. There seemed to be no end to 
the misery. In most of the gray cottages there was 
want. Hidden sorrow made the women's tongues 
bitter. Discomfort drove their husbands to drink. 
They could not look after their fields or their cattle. 
They made a fool of their minister. What could a 
man do with them? They did not understand what 
I said to them from the pulpit. They did not believe 
what I wanted to teach them. And no one to con- 
sult, no one who could help me to keep up my 

" There are those who have stood out," says Gosta. 
"God's grace has been so great to some that they 
have not returned from such a life broken men. 
They have had strength ; they have borne the loneli- 
ness, the poverty, the hopelessness. They have done 
what little good they could and have not despaired. 
Such men have always been and still are. I greet 
them as heroes. I will honor them as long as I live. 
I was not able to stand out." 

" I could not," added the clergyman. 

"The minister up there thinks," says Gosta, mus- 
ingly, " that he will be a rich man, an exceedingly 


nch man. No one who is poor can struggle against 
ei-iL And so he begins to hoard." 

*• If he had not hoarded he would have drunk," 
answers the old man ; " he sees so much misery." 

•* Or he would become dull and lazy, and lose all 
strength. It is dangerous for him who is not born 
there to come thither." 

•• He has to harden himself to hoard. He pretends 
at first; then it becomes a habit" 

" He has to be hard both to himself and to others," 
continues Gosta ; ** it is hard to amass. He must 
endure hate and scorn ; he must go cold and hungry 
and harden his heart : it almost seems as if he had 
foj^tten why he began to hoard." 

The Broby clergyman looked startled at him. He 
wondered if Gosta sat there and made a fool of him. 
But Gosta was only eager and earnest It was as if 
he was speaking of his own life. 

" It was so with me," says the old man quietly. 

"But God watches over him," interrupts Gosta. 
" He wakes in him the thoughts of his youth when 
he has amassed enough. He gives the minister a sign 
when His people need him." 

" But if the minister does not obey the sign, Gosta 

" He cannot withstand it," says Gosta, and smiles. 
" He is so moved by the thought of the warm 
cottages which he will help the poor to build." 

The clergyman looks down on the little heaps he 
had raised from the sticks of the pile of shame. The 
longer he talks with Gosta, the more he is convinced 
that the latter is right. He had always had the 
thought of doing good some day, when he had 
enough, — of course he had had that thought 


" Why does he never build the cottages ? " he asks 

*' He IS ashamed. Many would think that he did 
what he always had meant to do through fear of the 

" He cannot bear to be forced, is that it? " 

" He can however do much good secretly. Much 
help is needed this year. He can find some one who 
will dispense his gifts. I understand what it all 
means," cries Gosta, and his eyes shone. " Thousands 
shall get bread this year from one whom they load 
with curses." 

" It shall be so, Gosta." 

A feeling of transport came over the two who had 
so failed in the vocation they had chosen. The desire 
of their youthful days to serve God and man filled 
them. They gloated over the good deeds they would 
do. Gosta would help the minister. 

" We will get bread to begin with," says the clergy- 

" We will get teachers. We will have a surveyor 
come, and divide up the land. Then the people shall 
learn how to till their fields and tend their cattle." 

" We will build roads and open new districts." 

" We will make locks at the falls at Berg, so that 
there will be an open way between Lofven and 

"All the riches of the forest will be of double 
blessing when the way to the sea is opened." 

** Your head shall be weighed down by blessings," 
cries Gosta. 

The clergyman looks up. They read in one an- 
other's eyes the same burning enthusiasm. 

But at the same moment the eyes of both fall on 
the pile of shame. 


" Gosta," says the old man, " all that needs a 
young man's strength, but I am dying. You see 
what is killing me." 

" Get rid of it ! " 

" How, Gosta Berling? " 

Gosta moves close up to him and looks sharply 
into his eyes. "Pray to God for rain," he says. 
"You are going to preach next Sunday. Pray for 

The old clergyman sinks down in terror. 

" If you are in earnest, if you are not he who has 
brought the drought to the land, if you had meant 
to serve the Most High with your hardness, pray 
God for rain. That shall be the token ; by that we 
shall know if God wishes what we wish." 

When Gosta drove down Broby hill, he was as- 
tonished at himself and at the enthusiasm which had 
taken hold of him. But it could be a beautiful life — 
yes, but not for him. Up there they would have 

none of his services. 


In the Broby church the sermon was over and the 
usual prayers read. The minister was just going 
to step down from the pulpit, but he hesitated, finally 
he fell on his knees and prayed for rain. 

He prayed as a desperate man prays, with few 
words, without coherency. 

" If it is my sin which has called down Thy wrath, 
let me alone suffer ! If there is any pity in Thee, 
Thou God of mercy, let it rain ! Take the shame 
from me ! Let it rain in answer to my prayer ! Let 
the rain fall on the fields of the poor ! Give Thy 
people bread ! " 

The day was hot; the sultriness was intolerable. 


The congregation sat as if in a torpor ; but at these 
broken words, this hoarse despair, every one had 

" If there is a way of expiation for me, give rain — " 

He stopped speaking. The doors stood open. 
There came a violent gust of wind. It rushed along 
the ground, whirled into the church, in a cloud of 
dust, full of sticks and straw. The clergyman could 
not continue; he staggered down from the pulpit 

The people trembled. Could that be an answer? 

But the gust was only the forerunner of the thunder- 
storm. It came rushing with an unheard-of violence. 
When the psalm was sung, and the clergyman stood 
by the altar, the lightning was already flashing, and 
the thunder crashing, drowning the sound of his 
voice. As the sexton struck up the final march, the 
first drops were already pattering against the green 
window-panes, and the people hurried out to see the 
rain. But they were not content with that: some 
wept, others laughed, while they let the torrents 
stream over them. Ah, how great had been their 
need I How unhappy they had been ! But God is 
good ! God let it rain. What joy, what joy ! 

The Broby clergyman was the only one who did 
not come out into the rain. He lay on his knees 
before the altar and did not rise. The joy had been 
too violent for him. He died of happiness. 




THE child's mother 

The child was born in a peasant's house east of the 
Klar river. The child's mother had come seeking 
employment one day in early June. 

She had been unfortunate, she had said to the master 
and mistress, and her mother had been so hard to her 
that she had had to run away from home. She called 
herself Elizabeth Karlsdotter; but she would not 
say from whence she came, for then perhaps they 
would tell her parents that she was there,, and if they 
should find her, she would be tortured to death, she 
knew it. She asked for no pay, only food and a 
roof over her head. She could work, weave or 
spin, and take care of the cows, — whatever they 
wanted. If they wished, she could also pay for 

She had been clever enough to come to the farm- 
house bare-foot, with her shoes under her arm ; she 
had coarse hands; she spoke the country dialect; 
and she wore a peasant woman's clothes. She was 

The master thought she looked sickly, and did not 
count much on her fitness for work. But somewhere 
the poor thing must be. And so she was allowed 
to stop. 

There was something about her which made every 
one on the farm kind to her. She had come to 


a good place. The people were serious and reticent. 
Her mistress liked her ; when she discovered that she 
could weave, they borrowed a loom from the vicar- 
age, and the child's mother worked at it the whole 

It never occurred to any one that she needed to 
be spared ; she had to work like a peasant girl the 
whole time. She liked too to have much work. 
She was not unhappy. Life among the peasants 
pleased her, although she lacked all her accustomed 
conveniences. But everything was taken so simply 
and quietly there. Every one's thoughts were on 
his or her work; the days passed so uniform and 
monotonous that one mistook the day and thought 
it was the middle of the week when Sunday came. 

One day at the end of August there had been 
haste with the oat crop, and the child's mother had 
gone out with the others to bind the sheaves. She 
had strained herself, and the child had been born, 
but too soon. She had expected it in October. 

Now the farmer's wife stood with the child in 
the living room to warm it by the fire, for the poor 
little thing was shivering in the August heat. The 
child's mother lay in a room beyond and listened 
to what they said of the little one. She could 
imagine how the men and maids came up and 
looked at him. 

" Such a poor little thing," they all said, and then 
followed always, without fail : — 

" Poor little thing, with no father ! " 

They did not complain of the child's crying : they 
thought a child needed to cry ; and, when everything 
was considered, the child was strong for its age ; had 
it but a father, all would have been well. 


The mother lay and listened and wondered. The 
matter suddenly seemed to her incredibly important. 
How would he get through life, the poor little thing? 

She had made her plans before. She would re* 
main at the farm-house the first year. Then she 
would hire a room and earn her bread at the loom. 
She meant to earn enough to feed and clothe the 
child. Her husband could continue to believe that 
she was unworthy. She had thought that the child 
perhaps would be a better man if she alone brought 
it up, than if a stupid and conceited father should 
guide it. 

But now, since the child was born, she could not 
see the matter in the same way. Now she thought 
that she had been selfish. "The child must have 
a father," she said to herself. 

If he had not been such a pitiful little thing, if he 
had been able to eat and sleep like other children, if 
his head had not always sunk down on one shoulder, 
and if he had not so nearly died when the attack of 
cramp came, it would not have been so important. 

It was not so easy to decide, but decide she must 
immediately. The child was three days old, and the 
peasants in Varmland seldom wait longer to have the 
child baptized. Under what name should the baby 
be entered in the church-register, and what would the 
clergyman want to know about the child's mother? 

It was an injustice to the child to let him be en- 
tered as fatherless. If he should be a weak and 
sickly man, how could she take the responsibility of 
depriving him of the advantages of birth and riches? 

The child's mother had noticed that there is gen- 
erally great joy and excitement when a child comes 
into the world. Now it seemed to her that it must 


be hard for this baby to live, whom every one pitied. 
She wanted to see him sleeping on silk and lace, as 
it behoves a count's son. She wanted to see him 
encompassed with joy and pride. 

The child's mother began to think that she had 
done its father too great an injustice. Had she the 
right to keep him for herself? That she could not 
have. Such a precious little thing, whose worth it is 
not in the power of man to calculate, should she take 
that for her own? That would not be honest. 

But she did not wish to go back to her husband. 
She feared that it would be her death. But the 
child was in greater danger than she. He might die 
any minute, and he was not baptized. 

That which had driven her from her home, the 
grievous sin which had dwelt in her heart, was gone. 
She had now no love for any other than the child. 

It was not too heavy a duty to try to get him his 
right place in life. 

The child's mother had the farmer and his wife 
called and told them everything. The husband jour- 
neyed to Borg to tell Count Dohna that his countess 
was alive, and that there was a child. 

The peasant came home late in the evening ; he had 
not met the count, for he had gone away, but he had 
been to the minister at Svartsjo, and talked with him 
of the matter. 

Then the countess heard that her marriage had 
been declared invalid, and that she no longer had a 

The minister wrote a friendly letter to her, and 
offered her a home in his house. 

A letter from her own father to Count Henrik, 
which must have reached Borg a few days after her 


flight, was also sent to her. It was just that letter m 
which the old man had begged the count to hasten 
to make his marriage legal, which had indicated to 
the count the easiest way to be rid of his wife. 

It is easy to imagine that the child's mother was 
seized with anger more than sorrow, when she heard 
the peasant's story. 

She lay awake the whole night. The child must 
have a father, she thought over and over again. 

The next morning the peasant had to drive to 
Ekeby for her, and go for Gosta Berling. 

Gosta asked the silent man many questions, but 
could find out nothing. Yes, the countess had been 
in his house the whole summer. She had been well 
and had worked. Now a child was born. The child 
was weak; but the mother would soon be strong 

Gc5sta asked if the countess knew that the mar- 
riage had been annulled. 

Yes, she knew it now. She had heard it yesterday. 
And as long as the drive lasted Gosta had alter- 
nately fever and chills. 

What did she want of him ? Why did she send for 

He thought of the life that summer on Lofven's 
shores. They had let the days go by with jests and 
laughter and pleasure parties, while she had worked 
and suffered. 

He had never thought of the possibility of ever 
seeing her again. Ah, if he had dared to hope ! He 
would have then come into her presence a better 
man. What had he now to look back on but the 
usual follies ! 
About eight o'clock in the evening he arrived, and 



was immediately taken to the child's mother. It 
was dark in the room. He could scarcely see her 
where she lay. The farmer and his wife came in 

Now you must know that she whose white face 
shone in the dimness was always the noblest and the 
purest he knew, the most beautiful soul which had 
ever arrayed itself in earthly dust. When he once 
again felt the bliss of being near her, he longed to 
throw himself on his knees and thank her for having 
again appeared to him; but he was so overpowered 
by emotion that he could neither speak nor act. 

^" Dear Countess Elizabeth I " he only cried. 
"Good-evening, Gosta." 
She gave him her hand, which seemed once more to 
nave become soft and transparent. She lay silent, 
while he struggled with his emotion. 

The child's mother was not shaken by any violently 
raging feelings when she saw Gosta. It surprised her 
only that he seemed to consider her of chief impor- 
tance, when he ought to understand that it now only 
concerned the child. 

"Gosta," she said gently, "you must help me now, 
as you once promised. You know that my husband 
has abandoned me, so that my child has no father." 

" Yes, countess ; but that can certainly be changed. 
Now that there is a child, the count can be forced to 
make the marriage legal. You may be certain that I 
shall help you ! " 

The countess smiled. "Do you think that I will 
force myself upon Count Dohna?" 

The blood surged up to Gosta's head. What did she 
wish then? What did she want of him? 

" Come here, Gosta," she said, and again stretched 


out her hand. " You must not be angry with me for 
what I am going to say ; but I thought that you who 
are — who are — " 

" A dismissed priest, a drunkard, a pensioner, Ebba 
Dohna's murderer ; I know the whole list — " 

" Are you already angry, Gosta?" 

"I would rather that you did not say anything 


But the child's mother continued : — 

" There are many, Gosta, who would have liked to 
be your wife out of love ; but it is not so with me. If 
I loved you I should not dare to speak as I am speak- 
ing now. For myself I would never ask such a thing, 
Gosta ; but do you see, I can do it for the sake of the 
child. You must understand what I mean to beg of 
you. Of course it is a great degradation for you, 
since I am an unmarried woman who has a child. I did 
not think that you would be willing to do it because 
you are worse than others ; although, yes, I did think 
of that too. But first I thought that you could be 
willing, because you are kind, Gosta, because you are 
a hero and can sacrifice yourself But it is perhaps 
too much to ask. Perhaps such a thing would be im- 
possible for a nian. If you despise me too much, if 
it is too loathsome for you to give your name to 
another man's child, say so ! I shall not be angry. 
I understand that it is too much to ask; but the 
child is sick, Gosta. It is cruel at his baptism not 
to be able to give the name of his mother's husband." 

He, hearing her, experienced the same feeling as 
when that spring day he had put her on land and left 
her to her fate. Now he had to help her to ruin her 
life, her whole future life. He who loved her had to 
do it. 


" I will do everything you wish, countess," he said. 

The next day he spoke to the dean at Bro, for there 
the banns were to be called. 

The good old dean was much moved by his story, 
and promised to take all the responsibility of giving 
her away. 

** Yes," he said, " you must help her, Gosta, other- 
wise she might become insane. She thinks that she 
has injured the child by depriving it of its position 
in life. She has a most sensitive conscience, that 

'* But I know that I shall make her unhappy," cried 

"That you must not do, Gosta. You must be a 
sensible man now, with wife and child to care for." 

The dean had to journey down to Svartsjo and 
speak to both the minister there and the judge. 
The end of it all was that the next Sunday, the first 
of September, the banns were called in Svartsjo 
between Gosta Berling and Elizabeth von Thurn. 

Then the child's mother was carried with the great- 
est care to Ekeby, and there the child was baptized. 

The dean talked to her, and told her that she 
could still recall her decision to marry such a man 
as Gosta Berling. She ought to first write to her 

" I cannot repent," she said ; " think if my child 
should die before it had a father." 

When the banns had been thrice asked, the child's 
mother had been well and up several days. In the 
afternoon the dean came to Ekeby and married her to 
Gosta Berling. But no one thought of it as a wedding. 
No guests were invited. They only gave the child a 
father, nothing more. 


The child's mother shpne with a quiet joy, as if she 
had attained a great end in life. The bridegroom was 
in despair. He thought how she had thrown away 
her life by a marriage with him. He saw with dismay 
how he scarcely existed for her. All her thoughts 
were with her child. 

A few days after the father and mother were mourn- 
ing. The child had died. 

Many thought that the child's mother did not mourn 
so violently nor so deeply as they had expected ; she 
had a look of triumph. It was as if she rejoiced that 
she had thrown away her life for the sake of the 
child. When he joined the angels, he would still 
remember that a mother on earth had loved him. 

All this happened quietly and unnoticed. When 
the banns were published for Gosta Berling and 
Elizabeth von Thurn in the Svartsjo church, most of 
the congregation did not even know who the bride 
was. The clergyman and the gentry who knew the 
story said little about it. It was as if they were afraid 
that some one who had lost faith in the power of con- 
science should wrongly interpret the young woman's 
action. They were so afraid, so afraid lest some one 
should come and say : '* See now, she could not con- 
quer her love for Gosta ; she has married him under 
a plausible pretext." Ah, the old people were always 
so careful of that young woman ! Never could they 
bear to hear anything evil of her. They would 
scarcely acknowledge that she had sinned. They 
would not agree that any fault stained that soul which 
was so afraid of evil. 

Another great event happened just then, which also 
caused Gosta's marriage to be little discussed. 


Major Samzelius had met with an accident. He 
had become more and more strange and misanthropic. 
His chief intercourse was with animals, and he had 
collected a small menagerie at Sjo. 

He was dangerous too; for he always carried a 
loaded gun, and shot it off time after time without 
paying much attention to his aim. One day he 
was bitten by a tame bear which he had shot with- 
out intending it. The wounded animal threw itself 
on him, and succeeded in giving him a terrible bite in 
the arm. The beast broke away and took refuge in 
the forest. 

The major was put to bed and died of the wound, 
but not till just before Christmas. Had his wife known 
that he lay ill, she could have resumed her sway over 
Ekeby. But the pensioners knew that she would not 
come before their year was out. 




Under the stairs to the gallery in the Svartsjo church 
is a lumber-room filled with the grave-diggers' worn- 
out shovels, with broken benches, with rejected tin 
labels and other rubbish. 

There, where the dust lies thickest and seems to 
hide it from every human eye, stands a chest, inlaid 
with mother-of-pearl in the most perfect mosaic. If 
one scrapes the dust away, it seems to shine and 
glitter like a mountain-wall in a fairy-tale. The chest 
is locked, and the key is in good keeping ; it may 
not be used. No mortal man may cast a glance into 
that chest. No one knows what is in it. First, when 
the nineteenth century has reached its close, may the 
key be placed in the lock, the cover be lifted, and the 
treasures which it guarded be seen by men. 

So has he who owned the chest ordained. 

On the brass-plate of the cover stands an inscrip- 
tion : " Labor vincit omnia." But another inscrip- 
tion would be more appropriate. " Amor vincit 
omnia '* ought to stand there. For the chest in the 
rubbish room under the gallery stairs is a testimony 
of the omnipotence of love. 

O Eros, all-conquering god ! 

Thou, O Love, art indeed eternal ! Old are people 
on the earth, but thou hast followed them through 
the ages. 


Where are the gods of the East, the strong heroes 
who carried weapons of thunder-bolts, — they who on 
the shores of holy rivers took offerings of honey and 
milk? They are dead. Dead is Bel, the mighty 
warrior, and Thot, the hawk-headed champion. The 
glorious ones are dead who rested on the cloud 
banks of Olympus ; so too the mighty who dwelt in 
the turreted Valhalla. All the old gods are dead ex- 
cept Eros, Eros, the all-powerful ! 

His work is in everything you see. He supports 
the race. See him everywhere ! Whither can you 
go without finding the print of his foot? What has 
your ear perceived, where the humming of his wings 
has not been the key-note ? He lives in the hearts of 
men and in the sleeping germ. See with trembling 
his presence in inanimate things! 

What is there which does not long and desire? 
What is there which escapes his dominion ? All the 
gods of revenge will fall, all the powers of strength 
and might. Thou, O Love, art eternal! 

Old Uncle Eberhard is sitting at his writing-desk, — 
a splendid piece of furniture with a hundred drawers, 
with marble top and ornaments of blackened brass. 
He works with eagerness and diligence, alone in the 
pensioners' wing. 

Oh, Eberhard, why do you not wander about wood 
and field in these last days of the departing summer 
like the other pensioners ? No one, you know, wor- 
ships unpunished the goddess of wisdom. Your back 
is bent with sixty and some years; the hair which 
covers your head is not your own ; the wrinkles crowd 
one another on your brow, which arches over hollow 
eyes ; and the decay of old age is drawn in the thou- 
sand lines about your empty mouth. 


Oh, Eberhard, why do you not wander about wocxi 
and field? Death parts you just so much the sooner 
from your desk, because you have not let life tempt 
you from it. 

Uncle Eberhard draws a thick stroke under his last 
line. From the desk's innumerable drawers he drags 
out yellowed, closely scribbled manuscripts, all the 
different parts of his great work, — that work which is 
to carry on Eberhard Berggren's name through all 
time. But just as he has piled up manuscript on 
manuscript, and is staring at them in silent rapture, 
the door opens, and in walks the young countess. 

There she is, the old men's young mistress, — she 
whom they wait on and adore more than grandparents 
wait on. and adore the first grandson. There she is 
whom they had found in poverty and in sickness, 
and to whom they had now given all the glory of the 
world, just as the king in the fairy tale did to the 
beautiful beggar girl he found in the forest. It is for 
her that the horn and violin now sound at Ekeby, — 
for her everything moves, breathes, works on the 
great estate. 

She is well again, although still very weak. Time 
goes slowly for her alone in the big house, and, as she 
knows that the pensioners are away, she wishes to 
see what it looks like in the pensioners* wing, that 
notorious room. 

So she comes softly in and looks up at the white- 
washed walls and the yellow striped bed-curtains, but 
she is embarrassed when she sees that the room is 
not empty. 

Uncle Eberhard goes solemnly towards her, and 
leads her forward to the great pile of paper. 

** Look, countess," he says ; " now my work is ready. 


Now shall what I have written go out into the world. 
Now great things are going to happen." 

" What is going to happen, Uncle Eberhard ? " 

" Oh, countess, it is going to strike like a thunder- 
bolt, a bolt which enlightens and kills. Ever since 
Moses dragged him out of Sinai's thunder-cloud and 
put him on the throne of grace in the innermost 
sanctuary of the temple, ever since then he has sat 
secure, the old Jehovah ; but now men shall see what 
he is: Imagination, emptiness, exhalation, the still- 
born child of our own brain. He shall sink into 
nothingness," said the old man, and laid his wrinkled 
hand on the pile of manuscript. " It stands here ; 
and when people read this, they will have to believe. 
They will rise up and acknowledge their own stupid- 
ity ; they will use crosses for kindling-wood, churches 
for storehouses, and clergymen will plough the earth." 

" Oh, Uncle Eberhard," says the countess, with a 
slight shudder, " are you such a dreadful person? Do 
such dreadful things stand there?" 

" Dreadful ! " repeated the old man, " it is only the 
truth. But we are like little boys who hide their 
faces in a woman's skirt as soon as they meet a 
stranger : we have accustomed ourselves to hide from 
the truth, from the eternal stranger. But now he 
shall come and dwell among us, now he shall be 
known by all." 

"By all?" 

" Not only by philosophers, but by everybody ; do 
you understand, countess, by everybody." 

" And so Jehovah shall die ? " 

" He and all angels, all saints, all devils, all lies." 

" Who shall then rule the world ? " 

" Do you believe that any one has ruled it before? 


Do you believe in that Providence which looks after 
sparrows and the hair of your head? No one has 
ruled it, no one shall rule it." 

" But we, we people, what will we become — " 

" The same which we have been — dust. That 
which is burned out can burn no longer ; it is dead. 
We about whom the fire of life flickers are only fuel. 
Life's sparks fly from one to another. We are 
lighted, flame up, and die out. That is life.' 

" Oh, Eberhard, is there no life of the spirit? 

" None." 

" No life beyond the grave? " 

" None." 

" No good, no evil, no aim, no hope?'^ 

" None." 

The young woman walks over to the window. She 
looks out at the autumn's yellowed leaves, at dahlias 
and asters which hang their heavy heads on broken 
stalks. She sees the Lofven's black waves, the au- 
tumn's dark storm-clouds, and for a moment she 
inclines towards repudiation. 

" Uncle Eberhard," she says, " how ugly and gray 
the world is ; how profitless everything is ! I should 
like to lie down and die." 

But then she hears a murmur in her soul. The 
vigor of life and its strong emotions cry out for the 
happiness of living. 

" Is there nothing," she breaks out, " which can 
give life beauty, since you have taken from me God 
and immortality? " 

" Work," answers the old man. 

But she looks out again, and a feeling of scorn for 
that poor wisdom creeps over her. The unfathomable 
rises before her ; she feels the spirit dwelling in every- 


thing; she is sensible of the power which lies bound 
in seemingly dead material, but which can develop 
into a thousand forms of shifting life. Dizzily she 
seeks for a name for the presence of God's spirit in 

"Oh, Eberhard," she says, "what is work? Is 
it a god? Has it any meaning in itself? Name 
another ! " 

" I know no other," answered the old man. 

Then she finds the name which she is seeking, — a 
poor, often sullied name. 

" Uncle Eberhard, why do you not speak of love? " 

A smile glides over the empty mouth where the 
thousand wrinkles cross. 

" Here," says the philosopher, and strikes the heavy 
packet with his clenched hand, "here all the gods 
are slain, and I have not forgotten Eros. What is 
love but a longing of the flesh? In what does he 
stand higher than the other requirements of the 
body? Make hunger a god ! Make fatigue a god ! 
They are just as worthy. Let there be an end to 
such absurdities ! Let the truth live ! " 

The young countess sinks her head. It is not so, 
all that is not true ; but she cannot contest it. 

" Your words have wounded my soul," she says ; 
" but still I do not believe you. The gods of revenge 
and violence you may be able to kill, no others." 

But the old man takes her hand, lays it on the 
book, and swears in the fanaticism of unbelief 

" When you have read this, you must believe." 

"May it never come before my eyes," she says, 
" for if I believe that, I cannot live." 

And she goes sadly from the philosopher. But he 
sits for a long time and thinks, when she has gone. 



Those old manuscripts, scribbled over with heath- 
enish confessions, have not yet been tested before the 
world. Uncle Eberhard's name has not yet reached 
the heights of fame. 

His great work lies hidden in a chest in the lumber- 
room under the gallery stairs in the Svartsjo church ; 
it shall first see the light of day at the end of the 

But why has he done this? Was he afraid not to 
have proved his point? Did he fear persecutions? 
You little know Uncle Eberhard. 

Understand it now ; he has loved the truth, not his 
own glory. So he has sacrificed the latter, not the 
former, in order that a deeply loved child might die 
in the belief in that she has most cared for. 

O Love, thou art indeed eternal ! 




No one knows the place in the lee of the mountain 
where the pines grow thickest and deep layers of 
moss cover the ground. How should any one know 
it? No man's foot has ever trodden it before; no 
man's tongue has given it a name. No path leads 
to that hidden spot. It is the most solitary tract in 
the forest, and now thousands of people are looking 
for it. 

What an endless procession of seekers! They 
would fill the Bro church, — not only Bro, but Lof- 
viks and Svartsjo. 

All who live near the road rush out and ask, " Has 
anything happened } Is the enemy upon us .^ Where 
are you going ? Tell us where. " 

"We are searching," they answer. "We have 
been searching for two days. We shall go on to- 
day; but afterwards we can do no more. We are 
going to look through the Bjome wood and the 
firclad heights west of Ekeby. 

It was from NygSrd, a poor district far away 
among the eastern mountains, the procession had 
first started. The beautiful girl with the heavy, 
black hair and the red cheeks had disappeared a 
week before. The broom-girl, to whom Gosta Ber- 
ling had wished to engage himself, had been lost in 
the great forests. No one had seen her for a week. 


So the people started from Nygard to search 
through the wood. And everybody they met joined 
in the search. 

Sometimes one of the new-comers asks, — 

"You men from Nygard, how has it all happened? 
Why do you let that beautiful girl go alone in 
strange paths? The forest is deep, and God has 
taken away her reason." 

"No one disturbs her," they answer; "she dis- 
turbs no one. She goes as safely as a child. Who 
is safer than one God himself must care for t She 
has always come back before." 

So have the searching crowd gone through the 
eastern woods, which shut in Nygard from the plain. 
Now on the third day it passes by the Bro church 
towards the woods west of Ekeby. 

But wherever they go, a storm of wondering rages ; 
constantly a man from the crowd has to stop to 
answer questions : " What do you want ? What are 
you looking for ? " 

"We are looking for the blue-eyed, dark-haired 
girl. She has laid herself down to die in the forest. 
She has been gone a week." 

"Why has she laid herself down to die in the 
forest? Was she hungry? Was she unhappy?" 

" She has not suffered want, but she had a misfor- 
tune last spring. She has seen that mad priest, 
Gosta Berling, and loved him for many years. She 
knew no better. God had taken away her wits. " 

" Last spring the misfortime happened, — before 
that, he had never looked at her. Then he said to 
her that she should be his sweetheart. It was only 
in jest ; he let her go again, but she could not be 
consoled. She kept coming to Ekeby. She went 


after him wherever he went. He wearied of her. 
When she was there last, they set their dogs on her. 
Since then no one has seen her." 

To the rescue, to the rescue! A human life is 
concerned! A human being has laid herself down 
to die in the wood! Perhaps she is already dead. 
Perhaps, too, she is still wandering there without 
finding the right way. The forest is wide, and her 
reason is with God. 

Come everybody, men and women and children! 
Who can dare to stay at home ? Who knows if God 
does not intend to use just him } Come all of you, 
that your soul may not some day wander helpless in 
dry places, seek rest and find none! Come! God 
has taken her reason, and the forest is wide. 

It is wonderful to see people unite for some great 
object. But it is not hunger, nor the fear of God, 
nor war which has driven these out. Their trouble 
is without profit, their striving without reward ; they 
are only going to find a fool. So many steps, so 
much anxiety, so many prayers it all costs, and yet 
it will only be rewarded by the recovery of a poor, 
misguided girl, whose reason is with God. 

Those anxious searchers fill the highway. With 
earnest eyes they gauge the forest ; they go forward 
sadly, for they know that they are more probably 
searching for the dead than the living. 

Ah, that black thing at the foot of the cliff, it is 
not an ant-hill after all, but a fallen tree. Praised 
be Heaven, only a fallen tree! But they cannot 
see distinctly, the pines grow so thick. 

It is the third day of the search ; they are used to 
the work. They search under the sloping rock, on 
which the foot can slide, under fallen trecB, where 


arm or leg easily could have been broken, under the 
thick growing pines' branches, trailing over soft 
moss, inviting to rest. 

The bear's den, the fox's hole, the badger's deep 
home, the red cranberry slope, the silver fir, the 
mountain, which the forest fire laid waste a month 
ago, the stone which the giant threw, — all that have 
they found, but not the place under the rock where 
the black thing is lying. No one has been there to 
see if it is an ant-hill, or a tree-trunk, or a human 
being. Alas! it is indeed a human being, but no 
one has been there to see her. 

The evening sun is shining on the other side of 
the wood, but the young woman is not found. What 
should they do now? Should they search through 
the wood once more } The wood is dangerous in the 
dark; there are bottomless bogs and deep clefts. 
And what could they, who had found nothing when 
the sun was shining, find when it was gone } 

Let us go to Ekeby ! " cries one in the crowd. 

Let us go to Ekeby ! " they all cry together. 

Let us ask those pensioners why they let loose 
the dogs on one whose reason God had taken, why 
they drove a fool to despair. Our poor, hungry 
children weep; our clothes are torn; the potatoes 
rot in the ground ; our horses are running loose ; our 
cows get no care ; we are nearly dead with fatigue 
— and the fault is theirs. Let us go to Ekeby and 
ask about this. 

" During this cursed year we have had to suffer 
everything. The winter will bring us starvation. 
Whom does God's hand seek.^ It was not the Broby 
clergyman. His prayers could reach God's ear. 
Who, then, if not these pensioners } Let us go to 
Ekeby ! 



"They have ruined the estate, they have driven 
the major's wife to beg on the highway. It is their 
fault that we have no work. The famine is their 
doing. Let us go to Ekeby!" 

So the dark, embittered men crowd down to 
Ekeby; hungry women with weeping children in 
their arms follow them; and last come the cripples 
and the old men. And the bitterness spreads like 
an ever-increasing storm from the old men to the 
women, from the women to the strong men at the 
head of the train. 

It is the autumn-flood which is coming. Pen- 
sioners, do you remember the spring-flood? 

A cottager who is ploughing in a pasture at the 
edge of the wood hears the people's mad cries. He 
throws himself on one of his horses and gallops 
down to Ekeby. 

"Disaster is coming!" he cries; "the bears are 
coming, the wolves are coming, the goblins are 
coming to take Ekeby! " 

He rides about the whole estatCj wild with 


"All the devils in the forest are let loose!" he 
ries. " They are coming to take Ekeby ! Save 
yourselves who can ! The devils are coming to burn 
the house and to kill the pensioners ! " 

And behind him can be heard the din and cries 
of the rushing horde. Does it know what it wants, 
that storming stream of bitterness.' Does it want 
fire, or murder, or plunder? 

They are not human beings; they are wild beasts. 
Death to Ekeby, death to the pensioners! 

Here brandy flows in streams. Here gold lies 
liled in the vaults. Here the storehouses are filled 


with grain and meat. Why should the honest starrc, 
and the guilty have plenty? 

But now your time is out, the measore is ofcr- 
flowing, pensioners. In the wood lies one lAo 
condemns you; we are her deputies. 

The pensioners stand in the big building and see 
the people coming. They know already why they 
are denounced. For once they are innocent. If 
that poor girl has lain down to die in the wood, it is 
not because they have set the dogs on her, — that 
they have never done, — but because Gosta Berling, 
a week ago, was married to Countess Elizabeth. 

But what good is it to speak to that mob? They 
are tired, they are hungry ; revenge drives them cm, 
plunder tempts them. They rush down with wild 
cries, and before them rides the cottager, whom fear 
has driven mad. 

The pensioners have hidden the young countess 
in their innermost room. Lowenborg and Eberhard 
are to sit there and guard her; the others go out to 
meet the people. They are standing on the steps 
before the main building, unarmed, smiling, as the 
first of the noisy crowd reach the house. 

And the people stop before that little group of 
quiet men. They had wanted to throw them down 
on the ground and trample them under their iron- 
shod heels, as the people at the Lund ironworks 
used to do with the manager and overseer fifty years 
ago; but they had expected closed doors, raised 
weapons ; they had expected resistance and fighting. 

" Dear friends, '* say the pensioners ; " dear friends, 
you are tired and hungry ; let us give you a little 
food and first a glass of Ekeby's own home-brewed 
brandy. " 


The people will not listen; they scream and 
threaten. But the pensioners are not discouraged. 

"Only wait," they say; "only wait a second. 
See, Ekeby stands open. The cellar doors are open ; 
the store-rooms are open; the dairy is open. Your 
women are dropping with fatigue; the children are 
crying. Let us get them food first! Then you can 
kill us. We will not run away. The attic is full 
of apples. Let us go after apples for the children ! " 

An hour later the feasting is in full swing at 

":eby. The biggest feast the big house has ever 
seen is celebrated there that autumn night under the 
shining full moon. 

Woodpiles have been lighted; the whole estate 
flames with bonfires. The people sit about in 
groups, enjoying warmth and rest, while all the 
good things of the earth are scattered over them. 

Resolute men have gone to the farmyard and 
taken what was needed. Calves and sheep have 
been killed, and even one or two oxen. The animals 
have been cut up and roasted in a trice. Those 
starving hundreds are devouring the food. Animal 
after animal is led out and slaughtered. It looks as 
if the whole barn would be emptied in one night. 

They had just baked that day. Since the young 
Countess Elizabeth had come, there had once more 
been industry in-doors. It seemed as if the young 
woman never for an instant remembered that she 
was Gosta Berling's wife. Neither he nor she acted 
as if it were so; but on the other hand she made 
herself the mistress of Ekeby. As a good and capa- 
ble woman always must do, she tried with burning 
to remedy the waste and the sbiftlessness which 


reigned in the house. And she was obeyed. The 
servants felt a certain pleasure in again having a 
mistress over them. 

But what did it matter that she had filled the 
rafters with bread, that she had made cheeses and 
churned and brewed during the month of September? 

Out to the people with everything there is, so 
that they may not bum down Ekeby and kill the 
pensioners! Out with bread, butter, cheese! Out 
with the beer-barrels, out with the hams from the 
storehouse, out with the brandy-kegs, out with the 
apples ! 

How can all the riches of Ekeby suffice to diminish 
the people's anger.? If we get them away before 
any dark deed is done, we may be glad. 

It is all done for the sake of her who is now 
mistress at Ekeby. The pensioners are brave men; 
they would have defended themselves if they had 
followed their own will. They would rather have 
driven away the marauders with a few sharp shots, 
but for her, who is gentle and mild and begs for the 

As the night advances, the crowds become gentler. 
The warmth and the rest and the food and the brandy 
assuage their terrible madness. They begin to jest 
and laugh. 

As it draws towards midnight, it looks as if they 
were preparing to leave. The pensioners stop bring- 
ing food and wine, drawing corks and pouring ale. 
They draw a sigh of relief, in the feeling that the 
danger is over. 

But just then a light is seen in one of the windows 
of the big house. All who see it utter a cry. It is 
a young woman who is carrying the light. 


It had only been for a second. The vision dis- 
appeared ; but the people think they have recognized 
the woman. 

" She had thick black hair and red cheeks ! " they 
cry. " She is here ! They have hidden her here ! " 

" Oh, pensioners, have you her here ? Have you 
got our child, whose reason God has taken, here at 
Ekeby t What are you doing with her ? You let us 
grieve for her a whole week, search for three whole 
days. Away with wine and food! Shame to us, 
that we accepted anything from your hands ! First, 
out with her ! Then we shall know what we have to 
do to you. " 

The people are quick; quicker still are the pen- 
sioners. They rush in and bar the door. But how 
could they resist such a mass } Door after door is 
broken down. The pensioners are thrown one side ; 
they are unarmed. They are wedged in the crowd, 
so that they cannot move. The people will come in 
to find the broom-girl. 

In the innermost room they find her. No one has 
time to see whether she is light or dark. They lift 
her up and carry her out. She must not be afraid, 
they say. They are here to save her. 

But they who now stream from the building are 
met by another procession. 

In the most lonely spot in the forest the body of a 
woman, who had fallen over a high cliff and died in 
the fall, no longer rests. A child had found her. 
Searchers who had remained in the wood had lifted 
her on their shoulders. Here they come. 

In death she is more beautiful than in life. Lovely 
she lies, with her long, black hair. Fair is the form 
since the eternal peace rests upon it. 


Lifted high on the men's shoulders, she is carried 
through the crowd. With bent heads all do homage 
to the majesty of death. 

"She has not been dead long," the men whisper. 
" She must have wandered in the woods till to-day. 
We think that she wanted to escape from us who 
were looking for her, and so fell over the cliff." 

But if this is the broom-girl, who is the one who 
has been carried out of Ekeby } 

The procession from the wood meets the proces- 
sion from the house. Bonfires are burning all over 
the yard. The people can see both the women and 
recognize them. The other is the young countess 
at Borg. 

" Oh ! what is the meaning of this } Is this a new 
crime.? Why is the young countess here at Ekeby? 
Why have they told us that she was far away or 
dead.? In the name of justice, ought we not to 
throw ourselves on the pensioners and trample them 
to dust under iron-shod heels ? " 

Then a ringing voice is heard. Gosta Berling 
has climbed up on the balustrade and is speaking. 
" Listen to me, you monsters, you devils ! Do you 
think there are no guns and powder at Ekeby, you 
madmen } Do you think that I have not wanted to 
shoot you like mad dogs, if she had not begged for 
you.? Oh, if I had known that you would have 
touched her, not one of you should have been left 
alive ! 

" Why are you raging here to-night and threaten- 
ing us with murder and fire ? What have I to do with 
your crazy girls.? Do I know where they run.? I 
have been too kind to that one; that is the matter. 
I ought to have set the dogs on her, — it would have 



been better for us both, — but I did not. Nor have 
I ever promised to marry her; that I have never 
done. Remember that ! 

" But now I tell you that you must let her whom 
you have dragged out of the house go. Let her go, 
I say; and may the hands who have touched her 
burn in everlasting fire ! Do you not understand that 
she is as much above you as heaven is above the 
earth ? She is as delicate as you are coarse ; as good 

you are bad. 

" Now I will tell you who she is. First, she is 
angel from heaven, — secondly, she has been 
Tied to the count at Borg. But her mother-in- 
law tortured her night and day; she had to stand at 
the lake and wash clothes like an ordinary maid; 
she was beaten and tormented as none of your 
women have ever been. Yes, she was almost ready 
to throw herself into the river, as we all know, 
because they were torturing the life out of her. I 
wonder which one of you was there then to save her 
life. Not one of you was there; but we pensioners, 
we did it. 

" And when she afterwards gave birth to a child 
off in a farm-house, and the count sent her the 
message: ' We were married in a foreign land; we 
did not follow law and order. You are not my wife; 
I am not your husband. I care nothing for your 
child!' — yes, when that was so, and she did not 
want the child to stand fatherless in the church 
register, then you would have been proud enough if 
she had said to one of you: 'Come and marry me! 
I must have a father for the child ! ' But she chose 
none of you. She took GiJsta Berling, the penniless 

iest. who may never speak the word of God. Yes, 


I tell you, peasants, that I have never done anything 
harder; for I was so unworthy of her that I did not 
dare to look her in the eyes, nor did I dare say no, 
for she was in despair. 

"And now you may believe what evil you like of 
us pensioners ; but to her we have done what good 
we could. And it is thanks to her that you have not 
all been killed to-night. But now I tell you: let 
her go, and go yourselves, or I think the earth will 
open and swallow you up. And as you go, pray 
God to forgive you for having frightened and grieved 
one who is so good and innocent. And now be off! 
We have had enough of you ! " 

Long before he had finished speaking, those who 
had carried out the countess had put her down on 
one of the stone steps; and now a big peasant came 
thoughtfully up to her and stretched out his great 

" Thank you, and good-night, " he said. " We wish 
you no harm, countess. " 

After him came another and shook her hand. 
" Thanks, and good-night. You must not be angry 
with us!" 

Gosta sprang down and placed himself beside her. 
Then they took his hand too. 

So they came forward slowly, one after another, 
to bid them good -night before they went. They 
were once more subdued; again were they human 
beings, as they were when they left their homes that 
morning, before hunger and revenge had made them 
wild beasts. 

They looked in the countess's face, and Gosta saw 
that the innocence and gentleness they saw there 
brought tears into the eyes of many. There was in 


them all a silent adoration of the noblest they had 
ever seen. 

They could not all shake her hand. There were 
so many, and the young woman was tired and weak. 
But they all came and looked at her, and could take 
Gosta's hand, — his arm could stand a shaking. 

Gosta stood as if in a dream. That evening a 
new love sprang up in his heart. 

"Oh, my people," he thought, "oh, my people, 
how I love you!" He felt how he loved all that 
crowd who were disappearing into the darkness with 
the dead girl at the head of the procession, with 
their coarse clothes and evil-smelling shoes; those 
who lived in the gray huts at the edge of the wood ; 
those who could not write and often not read ; those 
who had never known the fulness and richness of 
life, only the struggle for their daily bread. 

He loved th^m with a painful, burning tenderness 
which forced the tears from his eyes. He did not 
know what he wanted to do for them, but he loved 
them, each and all, with their faults, their vices and 
their weaknesses. Oh, Lord God, if the day could 
come when he too should be loved by them! 

He awoke from his dream ; his wife laid her hand 
on his arm. The people were gone. They were 
alone on the steps. 

" Oh, Gosta, Gosta, how could you ! " 

She put her hands before her face and wept. 

" It is true what I said, " he cried. " I have never 
promised the broom-girl to marry her. ' Come here 
next Friday, and you shall see something funny!' 
was all I ever said to her. It is not my fault that 
she cared for me." 

" Oh, it was not that ; but how could you say to 


the people that I was good and pure ? Gosta, Gosta ! 
Do you not know that I loved you when I had no 
right to do it ? I was ashamed, Gosta ! I was ready 
to die of shame ! " 

And she was shaken by sobs. 

He stood and looked at her. 

"Oh, my friend, my beloved!" he said quietly. 
" How happy you are, who are so good 1 How happy 
to have such a beautiful soul ! " 




In the year 1770, in Germany, the afterwards learned 
and accomplished Kevenhiiller was born. He was 
the son of a count, and could have lived in lofty 
palaces and ridden at the Emperor's side if he had 
so wished; but he had not. 

He could have liked to fasten windmill sails 
on the castle's highest tower, turn the hall into 
a locksmith's workshop, and the boudoir into a 
watch-maker's. He would have liked to fill the 
castle with whirling wheels and working levers. 
But when he could not do it he left all the pomp 
and apprenticed himself to a watch-maker. There 
he learned eyerything there was to learn about cog- 
wheels, springs, and pendulums. He learned to make 
sun-dials and star-dials, clocks with singing canary- 
birds and horn-blowing shepherds, chimes which 
filled a whole church-tower with their wonderful 
machinery, and watch-works so small that they could 
be set in a locket. 

When he had got his patent of mastership, he 
bound his knapsack on his back, took his stick in 
his hand, and wandered from place to place to 
study everything that went with rollers and wheels. 
Kevenhuller was no ordinary watch-maker; he wished 
to be a great inventor and to improve the world. 



When he had so wandered through many lands, he 
turned his steps towards Varmland, to there study 
mill-wheels and mining. One beautiful summer 
morning it so happened that he was crossing the 
market-place of Karlstad. But that same beautiful 
summer morning it had pleased the wood-nymph to 
extend her walk as far as the town. The noble lady 
came also across the market-place from the opposite 
direction, and so met Kevenhiiller. 

That was a meeting for a watch-maker's appren- 
tice. She had shining, green eyes, and a mass of 
light hair, which almost reached the ground, and 
she was dressed in green, changeable silk. She 
was the most beautiful woman Kevenhiiller had ever 

He stood as if he had lost his wits, and stared at 
her as she came towards him. 

She came direct from the deepest thicket of the 
wood, where the ferns are as high as trees, where 
the giant firs shut out the sun, so that it can only 
fall in golden drops on the yellow moss. 

I should like to have been in Kevenhiiller's place, 
to see her as she came with ferns and pine-needles 
tangled in her yellow hair and a little black snake 
about her neck. 

How the people must have stared at her ! Horses 
bolted, frightened by her long, floating hair. The 
street boys ran after her. The men dropped their 
meat-axes to gape at her. 

She herself went calm and majestic, only smiling 
a little at the excitement, so that Kevenhiiller saw 
her small, pointed teeth shine between her red lips. 

She had hung a cloak over her shoulders so that 
none should see who she was; but as ill-luck would 


have it, she had forgotten to cover her tail. It 
dragged along the paving-stones. 

Kevenhiiller saw the tail; he was sorry that a 
noble lady should make herself the laughing-stock 
of the town ; so he bowed and said courteously : — 

"Would it not please your Grace to lift your 
train ? " 

The wood-nymph was touched, not only by his 
kindness, but by his politeness. She stopped before 
him and looked at him, so that he thought that 
shining sparks passed from her eyes into his brain. 
"KevenhuUer," she said, "hereafter you shall be 
able with your two hands to execute whatever work 
you will, but only one of each kind." 

She said it and she could keep her word. For 
who does not know that the wood-nymph has the 
power to give genius and wonderful powers to those 
who win her favor ? 

Kevenhiiller remained in Karlstad and hired a 
workshop there. He hammered and worked night 
and day. In a week he had made a wonder. It was 
a carriage, which went by itself. It went up hill 
and down hill, went fast or slow, could be steered 
and turned, be stopped and started, as one wished. 

Kevenhuller became famous. He was so proud of 
his carriage that he journeyed up to Stockholm to 
show it to the king. He did not need to wait for 
post-horses nor to scold ostlers. He proudly rode in 
his own carriage and was there in a few hours. 

He rode right up to the palace, and the king came 
out with his court ladies and gentlemen and looked 
at him. They could not praise him enough. 

The king then said: "You might give me that 
carriage, Kevenhuller. " And although he answered 


no^ the king persisted and wished to have the 

Thep Kevenhuller saw that in the king's train 
stood a court lady with light hair and a green dress. 
He recognized her, and he understood that it was 
she who had advised the king to ask him for his 
carriage. He was in despair. He could not bear 
that another should have his carriage, nor did he 
dare to say no to the king. Therefore he drove it 
with such speed against the palace wall that it was 
broken into a thousand pieces. 

When he came home to Karlstad he tried to make 
another carriage. But he could not. Then he was 
dismayed at the gift the wood-nymph had given him. 
He had left the life of ease at his father's castle to 
be a benefactor to many, not to make wonders which 
only one could use. What good was it to him to be 
a great master, yes, the greatest of all masters, if he 
could not duplicate his marvels so that they were of 
use to thousands. 

And he so longed for quiet, sensible work that he 
became a stone-cutter and mason. It was then he 
built the great stone tower down by the west bridge, 
and he meant to build walls and portals and court- 
yards, ramparts and turrets, so that a veritable castle 
should stand by the Klar River. 

And there he should realize his childhood's dream. 
Everything which had to do with industry and handi- 
craft should have a place in the castle halls. White 
millers and blacksmiths, watchmakers with green 
shades before their strained eyes, dyers with dark 
hands, weavers, turners, filers, — all should have 
their workshops in his castle. 

And everything went well. Of the stones he 


himself had hewn he had with his own hand built 
the tower. He had fastened windmill sails on it, 
— for the tower was to be a mill, — and now he 
wanted to begin on the smithy. 

But one day he stood and watched how the light, 
strong wings turned before the wind. Then his old 
longing came over him. 

He shut himself in in his workshop, tasted no 
food, took no rest, and worked unceasingly. At the 
end of a week he had made a new marvel. 

One day he climbed up on the roof of his tower 
and began to fasten wings to his shoulders. 

Two street boys saw him, and they gave a cry 
which was heard through the whole town. They 
started off; panting, they ran up the streets and 
down the streets, knocking on all the doors, and 
screaming as they ran: — 

"Kevenhiiller is going to fly! Kevenhiiller is 
going to fly!" 

He stood calmly on the tower -roof and fastened on 
his wings, and in the meantime crowds of people 
came running through the narrow streets of old 
Karlstad. Soon the bridge was black with them. 
The market-place was packed, and the banks of the 
river swarmed with people. 

Kevenhiiller at last got his wings on and set out. 
He gave a couple of flaps with them, and then he 
was out in the air. He lay and floated high above 
the earth. 

He drew in the air with long breaths; it was 
strong and pure. His breast expanded, and the old 
knights' blood began to seethe in him. He tumbled 
like a pigeon, he hovered like a hawk, his flight was 
as swift as the swallow's, as sure as the falcon's. If 


he had only been able to make such a pair of wings 
for every one of them ! If he had only been able to 
give them all the power to raise themselves in this 
pure air! He could not enjoy it alone. Ah, that 
wood-nymph, — if he could only meet her ! 

Then he saw, with eyes which were almost blinded 
by the dazzling sunlight, how some one came flying 
towards him. Great wings like his own, and between 
the wings floated a human body. He saw floating 
yellow hair, billowy green silk, wild shining eyes. 
It was she, it was she! 

Kevenhiiller did not stop to consider. With furi- 
ous speed he threw himself upon her to kiss her or 
to strike her, — he was not sure which, — but at any 
rate to force her to remove the curse from his exist- 
ence. He did not look where he was going; he saw 
only the flying hair and the wild eyes. He came 
close up to her and stretched out his arms to seize 
her. But his wings caught in hers, and hers were 
the stronger. His wings were torn and destroyed; 
he himself was swung round and hurled down, he 
knew not whither. 

When he returned to consciousness he lay on the 
roof of his own tower, with the broken flying-machine 
by his side. He had flown right against his own 
mill ; the sails had caught him, whirled him round 
a couple of times, and then thrown him down on the 
tower roof. 

So that was the end. 

Kevenhuller was again a desperate man. He could 
not bear the thought of honest work, and he did not 
dare to use his magic power. If he should make 
another wonder and should then destroy it, his heart 
would break with sorrow. And if he did not destroy 


it, he would certainly go mad at the thought that he 
could not do good to others with it. 

He looked up his knapsack and stick, let the mill 
stand as it was, and decided to go out and search for 
the wood-nymph. 

In the course of his joumeyings he came to Ekeby, 
a few years before the major's wife was driven out. 
There he was well received, and there he remained. 
The memories of his childhood came back to him, 
and he allowed them to call him count. His hair 
grew gray and his brain slept. He was so old that 
he could no longer believe in the feats of his youth. 
He was not the man who could work wonders. It 
was not he who had made the automatic carriage and 
the flying-machine. Oh, no, — tales, tales ! 

But then it happened that the major's wife was 
driven from Ekeby, and the pensioners were masters 
of the great estate. Then a life began there which 
had never been worse. A storm passed over the 
land; men warred on earth, and souls in heaven. 
Wolves came from Dovre with witches on their 
backs, and the wood-nymph came to Ekeby. 

The pensioners did not recognize her. They 
thought that she was a poor and distressed woman 
whom a cruel mother-in-law had hunted to despair. 
So they gave her shelter, revered her like a queen, 
and loved her like a child. 

Kevenhiiller alone saw who she was. At first he 
was dazzled like the others. But one day she wore 
a dress of green, shimmering silk, and when she had 
that on, Kevenhiiller recognized her. 

There she sat on silken cushions, and all the old 
men made themselves ridiculous to serve her. One 
was cook and another footman; one reader, one 


court-musician, one shoemaker; they all had their 

They said she was ill, the odious witch; but 
Kevenhiiller knew what that illness meant. She 
was laughing at them all. 

He warned the pensioners against her. " Look at 
her small, pointed teeth,'* he said, "and her wild, 
shining eyes. She is the wood-nymph, — all evil is 
about in these terrible times. I tell you she is the 
wood-nymph, come hither for our ruin. I have seen 
her before." 

But when Kevenhiiller saw the wood-nymph and 
had recognized her, the desire for work came over 
him. It began to burn and seethe in his brain; his 
fingers ached with longing to bend themselves about 
hammer and file ; he could hold out no longer. With 
a bitter heart he put on his working-blouse and shut 
himself in in an old smithy, which was to be his 

A cry went out from Ekeby over the whole of 
Varmland: — 

" Kevenhiiller has begun to work ! " 

A new wonder was to see the light. What should 
it be ? Will he teach us to walk on the water, or to 
raise a ladder to the stars? 

One night, the first or second of October, he had 
the wonder ready. He came out of the workshop 
and had it in his hand. It was a wheel which turned 
incessantly; as it turned, the spokes glowed like 
fire, and it gave out warmth and light. Kevenhiiller 
had made a sun. When he came out of the work- 
shop with it, the night grew so light that the 
sparrows began to chirp and the clouds to burn as if 
at dawn. 

kevenhOller 425 

There should never again be darkness or cold on 
earth. His head whirled when he thought of it. 
The sun would continue to rise and set, but when it 
disappeared, thousands and thousands of his fire- 
wheels should flame through the land, and the air 
would quiver with warmth, as on the hottest summer- 
day. Harvests should ripen in midwinter; wild 
strawberries should cover the hillsides the whole 
year round; the ice should never bind the water. 

His fire- wheel should create a new world. It 
should be furs to the poor and a sun to the miners. 
It should give power to the mills, life to nature, a 
new, rich, and happy existence to mankind. But at 
the same time he knew that it was all a dream and 
that the wood-nymph would never let him duplicate 
his wheel. And in his anger and longing for 
revenge, he thought that he would kill her, and 
then he no longer knew what he was doing. 

He went to the main building, arid in the hall 
under the stairs he put down his fire-wheel. It was 
his intention to set fire to the house and burn up the 
witch in it. 

Then he went back to his workshop and sat there 
silently listening. 

There was shouting and crying outside. Now 
they could see that a great deed was done. 

Yes, run, scream, ring the alarm 1 But she is 
burning in there, the wood-nymph whom you laid 
on silken cushions. 

May she writhe in torment, may she flee before 
the flames from room to room ! Ah, how the green 
silk will blaze, and how the flames will play in her 
torrents of hair ! Courage, flames ! courage ! Catch 
her, set fire to her ! Witches burn ! Fear not her 


magic, flames! Let her bum! There is one who 
for her sake must burn his whole life through. 

Bells rang, wagons came rattling, pumps were 
brought out, water was carried up from the lake, 
people came running from all the neighboring vil- 
lages. There were cries and wailings and com- 
mands; that was the roof, which had fallen in; there 
was the terrible crackling and roaring of a fire. But 
nothing disturbed Kevenhiiller. He sat on the 
choppingfblock and rubbed his hands. 

Then he heard a crash, as if the heavens had 
fallen, and he started up in triumph. " Now it is 
done!" he cried. "Now she cannot escape; now 
she is crushed by the beams or burned up by the 
flames. Now it is done." 

And he thought of the honor and glory of Ekeby 
which had had to be sacrificed to get her out of the 
world, — the magnificent halls, where so much hap- 
piness had dwelt, the tables which had groaned 
under dainty dishes, the precious old furniture, silver 
and china, which could never be replaced — 

And then he sprang up with a cry. His fire- 
wheel, his sun, the model on which everything 
depended, had he not put it under the stairs to cause 
the fire ? 

Kevenhiiller looked down on himself, paralyzed 
with dismay. 

" Am I going mad ? " he said. " How could I do 
such a thing ? " 

At the same moment the door of the workshop 
opened and the wood-nymph walked in. 

She stood on the threshold, smiling and fair. 
Her green dress had neither hole nor stain, no smoke 
darkened her yellow hair. She was just as he had 


seen her in the market-place at Karlstad in his young 
days ; her tail hung between her feet, and she had 
all the wildness and fragrance of the wood about 

"Ekeby is burning," she said, and laughed. 

Kevenhiiller had the sledge-hammer lifted and 
meant to throw it at her head, but then he saw that 
she had his fire-wheel in her hand. 

" See what I have saved for you," she said. 

Kevenhiiller threw himself on his knees before 

" You have broken my carriage, you have rent my 
wings, and you have ruined my life. Have grace, 
have pity on me!" 

She climbed up on the bench and sat there, just 
as young and mischievous as when he saw her first. 

"I see that you know who I am," she said. 

"I know you, I have always known you," said 
the unfortunate man ; " you are genius. But set me 
free ! Take back your gift ! Let me be an ordinary 
person ! Why do you persecute me ? Why do you 
destroy me ? " 

"Madman," said the wood-nymph, "I have never 
wished you any harm. I gave you a great reward ; 
but I can also take it from you if you wish. But 
consider well. You will repent it." 

" No, no ! " he cried ; " take from me the power of 
working wonders ! " 

"First, you must destroy this," she said, and 
threw the fire- wheel on the ground in front of him. 

He did not hesitate. He swung the sledge- 
hammer over the shining sun ; sparks flew about the 
room, splinters and flames danced about him, and 
then his last wonder lay in fragments. 


" Yes, so I take my gift from you," said the wood- 
nymph. . As she stood in the door and the glare 
from the fire streamed over her, he looked at her for 
the last time.' More beautiful than ever before, she 
seemed to him, and no longer malicious, only stem 
and proud. 

"Madman," she said, "did I ever forbid you to let 
others copy your works } I only wished to protect 
the man of genius from a mechanic's labor." 

Whereupon she went. Kevenhiiller was insane 
for a couple of days. Then he was as usual again. 

But in his madness he had burned down Ekeby. 
No one was hurt. Still, it was a great sorrow to the 
pensioners that the hospitable home, where they had 
enjoyed so many good things, should suffer such 
injury Nn their time. 




On the first Friday in October the big Broby Fair 
begins, and lasts one week. It is the festival of the 
autumn. There is slaughtering and baking in every 
house ; the new winter clothes are then worn for the 
first time; the brandy rations are doubled; work 
rests. There is feasting on all the estates. The 
servants and laborers draw their pay and hold long 
conferences over what they shall buy at the Fair. 
People from a distance come in small companies 
with knapsacks on their backs and staffs in their 
hands. Many are driving their cattle before them 
to the market. Small, obstinate young bulls and 
goats stand still and plant their forefeet, causing 
much vexation to their owners and much amusement 
to the by-standers. The guest-rooms at the manors 
are filled with guests, bits of news are exchanged, 
and the prices of cattle discussed. 

And on the first Fair day what crowds swarm up 
Broby hill and over the wide market-place ! Booths 
are set up, where the tradespeople spread out their 
wares. Rope-dancers, organ-grinders, and blind 
violin-players are everywhere, as well as fortune- 
tellers, sellers of sweetmeats and of brandy. Beyond 
the rows of booths, vegetables and fruit are offered 
for sale by the gardeners from the big estates. Wide 
stretches are taken up by ruddy copper-kettles. It 


is plain, however, by the movement in the Fair, that 
there is want in Svartsjo and Bro and Lofvik and 
the other provinces about the Lofven : trade is poor 
at the booths. There is most bustle in the cattle- 
market, for many have to sell both cow and horse to 
be able to live through the winter. 

It is a gay scene. If one only has money for a 
glass or two, one can keep up one's courage. And 
it is not only the brandy which is the cause of the 
merriment ; when the people from the lonely wood- 
huts come down to the market-place with its seeth- 
ing masses, and hear the din of the screaming, 
laughing crowd, they become as if delirious with 

Everybody who does not have to stay at home to 
look after the house and cattle has come to this 
Broby Fair. There are the pensioners from Ekeby 
and the peasants from NygSrd, horse-dealers from 
Norway, Finns from the Northern forests, vagrants 
from the highways. 

Sometimes the roaring sea gathers in a whirlpool, 
which turns about a middle point. No one knows 
what is at the centre, until a couple of policemen 
break a way through the crowd to put an end to a 
fight or to lift up an overturned cart. 

Towards noon the great fight began. The peasants 
had got it into their heads that the tradespeople were 
using too short yardsticks, and it began with quar- 
relling and disturbance about the booths; then it 
turned to violence. 

Every one knows that for many of those who for 
days had not seen anything but want and suffering, 
it was a pleasure to strike, it made no difference 
whom or what. And as soon as they see that a fight 


is going on they come rushing from all sides. The 
pensioners mean to break through to make peace 
after their fashion, and the tradesmen run to help 
one another. 

Big Mons from Fors is the most eager in the 
game. He is drunk, and he is angry ; he has thrown 
down a tradesman and has begun to beat him, but at 
his calls for help his comrades hurry to him and try 
to make Mons let him go. Then Mons sweeps the 
rolls of cloth from one of the counters, and seizes the 
top, which is a yard broad and five yards long and 
made of thick planks, and begins to brandish it as a 

He is a terrible man, big Mons. It was he who 
kicked out a wall in the Filipstad-jail, he who could 
lift a boat out of the water and carry it on his 
shoulders. When he begins to strike about him 
with the heavy counter, every one flies before him. 
But he follows, striking right and left. For him it 
is no longer a question of friends or enemies: he 
only wants some one to hit, since he has got a 

The people scatter in terror. Men and women 
scream and run. But how can the women escape 
when many of them have their children by the hand ? 
Booths and carts stand in their way ; oxen and cows, 
maddened by the noise, prevent their escape. 

In a comer between the booths a group of women 
are wedged, and towards them the giant ragcji. 
Does he not see a tradesman in the midst of the 
crowd.? He raises the plank and lets it fall. In 
pale, shuddering terror the women receive the attack, 
sinking under the deadly blow. 

But as the board falls whistling down over them, 


its force is broken against a man's upstretched arms. 
One man has not sunk down, but raised himself 
above the crowd, one man has voluntarily taken the 
blow to save the many. The women and children 
are uninjured. One man has broken the force of 
the blow, but he lies now unconscious on the 

Big Mons does not lift up his board. He has met 
the man's eye, just as the counter struck his head, 
and it has paralyzed him. He lets himself be bound 
and taken away without resistance. 

But the report flies about the Fair that big Mons 
has killed Captain Lennart. They say that he who 
had been the people's friend died to save the women 
and defenceless children. 

And a silence falls on the great square, where life 
had lately roared at fever pitch: trade ceases, the 
fighting stops, the people leave their dinners. 

Their friend is dead. The silent throngs stream 
towards the place where he has fallen. He lies 
stretched out on the ground quite unconscious; no 
wound is visible, but his skull seems to be flattened. 

Some of the men lift him carefully up on to the 
counter which the giant has let fall. They think 
they perceive that he still lives. 

" Where shall we carry him ? " they ask one 

" Home," answers a harsh voice in the crowd. 

Yes, good men, carry him home! Lift him up 
on your shoulders and carry him home! He has 
been God's plaything, he has been driven like a 
feather before his breath. Carry him home! 

That wounded head has rested on the hard barrack- 
bed in the prison, on sheaves of straw in the barn. 


Let it now come home and rest on a soft pillow! 
He has suffered undeserved shame and torment, he 
has been hunted from his own door. He has been a 
wandering fugitive, following the paths of God 
where he could find them ; but his promised land was 
that home whose gates God had closed to him. Per- 
haps his house stands open for one who has died to 
save women and children. 

Now he does not come as a malefactor, escorted 
by reeling boon-companions; he is followed by a 
sorrowing people, in whose cottages he has lived 
while he helped their sufferings. Carry him home ! 

And so they do. Six men lift the board on which 
he lies on their shoulders and carry him away from 
the fair-grounds. Wherever they pass, the people 
move to one side and stand quiet ; the men uncover 
their heads, the women courtesy as they do in church 
when God's name is spoken. Many weep and dry 
their eyes; others begin to tell what a man he had 
been, — so kind, so gay, so full of counsel and so 
religious. It is wonderful to see, too, how, as soon 
as one of his bearers gives out, another quietly 
comes and puts his shoulder under the board. 

So Captain . Lennart comes by the place where 
the pensioners are standing. 

"I must go and see that he comes home safely," 
says Beerencreutz, and leaves his place at the road- 
side to follow the procession to Helgesater. Many 
follow his example. 

The fair-grounds are deserted. Everybody has 
to follow to see that Captain Lennart comes home. 

When the procession reaches Helgesater, the 

house is silent and deserted. Again the colonel's 

fist beats on the closed door. All the servants are 



at the Fair; the captain's wife is alone at home. It 
is she again who opens the door. 

And she asks, as she asked once before, — 

" What do you want ? " 

Whereupon the colonel answers, as he answered 
once before, — 

" We are here with your husband. " 

She looks at him, where he stands stiff and calm 
as usual. She looks at the bearers behind him, who 
are weeping, and at all that mass of people. She 
stands there on the steps and looks into hundreds of 
weeping eyes, who stare sadly up at her. Last she 
looks at her husband, who lies stretched out on the 
bier, and she presses her hand to her heart. "That 
is his right face," she murmurs. 

Without asking more, she bends down, draws 
back a bolt, opens the hall-doors wide, and then goes 
before the others into the bedroom. 

The colonel helps her to drag out the big bed and 
shake up the pillows, and so Captain Lennart is once 
more laid on soft down and white linen. 

" Is he alive ? " she asks. 
Yes," answers the colonel. 
Is there any hope } " 
No. Nothing can be done." 

There was silence for a while; then a sudden 
thought comes over her. 

"Are they weeping for his sake, all those peo- 
ple ? " 

" Yes. " 

" What has he done ? " 

"The last thing he did was tO' let big Mons kill 
him to save women and children from death. " 

Again she sits silent for a while and thinks. 



"What kind of a face did he have, colonel, when 
he came home two months ago ? " 

The colonel started. Now he understands; now at 
last he understands. 

" Gosta had painted him. " 

" So it was on account of one of your pranks that 
I shut him out from his home? How will you 
answer for that, colonel.?" 

Beerencreutz shrugged his broad shoulders. 

" I have much to answer for. " 

"But I think that this must be the worst thing 
you have done." 

"Nor have I ever gone a heavier way than that 
to-day up to Helgesater. Moreover, there are two 
others who are guilty in this matter." 


" Sintram is one, you yourself are the other. You 
are a hard woman. I know that many have tried to 
speak to you of your husband." 

" It is true, " she answers. 

Then she begs him to tell her all about that even- 
ing at Broby. 

He tells her all he can remember, and she listens 
silently. Captain Lennart lies still unconscious on 
the bed. The room is full of weeping people; no 
one thinks of shutting out that mourning crowd. All 
the doors stand open, the stairs and the halls are 
filled with silent, grieving people; far out in the 
yard they stand in close masses. 

When the colonel has finished, she raises her 
voice and says, — 

" If there are any pensioners here, I ask them to 
go. It is hard for me to see them when I am sitting 
by my husband's death-bed." 


Without another word the colonel rises and goes 
out. Sb do Gosta Berling and several of the other 
pensioners who had followed Captain Lennart. The 
people move aside for the little group of humiliated 

When they are gone the captain's wife says: 
" Will some of them who have seen my husband dur- 
ing this time tell me where he has lived, and what 
he has done ? " Then they begin to give testimony 
of Captain Lennart to his wife, who has misjudged 
him and sternly hardened her heart against him. 

It lasted a long time before they all were done. 
All through the twilight and the evening they stand 
and speak ; one after another steps forward and tells 
of him to his wife, who would not hear his name 

Some tell how he found them on a sick-bed and 
cured them. There are wild brawlers whom he has 
tamed. There are mourners whom he has cheered, 
drunkards whom he had led to sobriety. Every one 
who had been in unbearable distress had sent a mes- 
sage to God's wayfarer, and he had helped them, or 
at least he had waked hope and faith. 

Out in the yard the crowd stands and waits. They 
know what is going on inside: that which is said 
aloud by the death-bed is whispered from man to 
man outside. He who has something to say pushes 
gently forward. "Here is one who can bear wit- 
ness," they say, and let him pass. And they step 
forward out of the darkness, give their testimony, 
and disappear again into the darkness. 

"What does she say now.?" those standing out- 
side ask when some one comes out. "What does 
she say.?" 


''She shines like a queen. She smiles like a 
bride. She has moved his arm-chair up to the bed 
and laid on it the clothes which she herself had woven 
for him." 

But then a silence falls on the people. No one 
says it, all know it at the same time: "He is 

Captain Lennart opens his eyes and sees everything. 

He sees his home, the people, his wife, his chil- 
dren, the clothes; and he smiles. But he has only 
waked to die. He draws a rattling breath and gives 
up the ghost. 

Then the stories cease, but a voice takes up a 
death-hymn. All join in, and, borne on hundreds 
of strong voices, the song rises on high. 

It is earth's farewell greeting to the departing 




It was many years before the pensioners' reigpi at 

The shepherd's boy and girl played together in 
the wood, built houses with flat stones, and picked 
cloud-berries. They were both born in the wood. 
The wood was their home and mansion. They lived 
in peace with everything there. 

The children looked upon the lynx and the fox as 
their watch-dogs, the weasel was their cat, hares and 
squirrels their cattle, owls and grouse sat in their 
bird-cage, the pines were their servants, and the 
young birch-trees guests at their feasts. They knew 
the hole where the viper lay curled up in his winter 
rest; and when they had bathed they had seen the 
water-snake come swimming through the clear water; 
but they feared neither snake nor wild creature ; they 
belonged to the wood and it was their home. There 
nothing could frighten them. 

Deep in the wood lay the cottage where the boy 
lived. A hilly wood-path led to it; mountains closed 
it in and shut out the sun ; a bottomless swamp lay 
near by and gave out the whole year round an icy 
mist Such a dwelling seemed far from attractive to 
the people on the plain. 

The shepherd's boy and girl were some day to be 
married, live there in the forest cottage, and support 


themselves by the work of their hands. But before 
they were married, war passed over the land, and the 
boy enlisted. He came home again without wound 
or injured limb ; but he had been changed for life by 
the campaign. He had seen too much of the world's 
wickedness and man's cruel activity against man. He 
could no longer see the good. 

At first no one saw any change in him. With 
the love of his childhood he went to the clergyman 
and had the banns published. The forest cottage 
above Ekeby was their home, as they had planned 
long before ; but it was not a happy home. 

The wife looked at her husband as at a stranger. 
Since he had come from the wars, she could not 
recognize him. His laugh was hard, and he spoke 
but little. She was afraid of him. 

He did no harm, and worked hard. Still he was 
not liked, for he thought evil of everybody. He felt 
himself like a hated stranger. Now the forest 
animals were his enemies. The mountain, which shut 
out the sun, and the swamp, which sent up the mist, 
were his foes. The forest is a terrible place for one 
who has evil thoughts. 

He who will live in the wilderness should have 
bright memories. Otherwise he sees only murder 
and oppression among plants and animals, just as he 
had seen it before among men. He expects evil 
from everything he meets. 

The soldier, Jan Hok, could not explain what was 
the matter with him ; but he felt that nothing went 
well with him. There was little peace in his home. 
His sons who grew up there were strong, but wild. 
They were hardy and brave men, but they too lived 
at enmity with all mea 


His wife was tempted by her sorrow to seek out 
the secrets of the wilderness. In swamp and thicket 
she gathered healing herbs. She could cure sickness, 
and give advice to those who were crossed in love. 
She won fame as a witch, and was shunned, although 
she did much good. 

One day the wife tried to speak to her husband of 
his trouble. 

" Ever since you went to the war," she said, " you 
have been so changed. What did they do to you 
there ? " 

Then he rose up, and was ready to strike her ; and 
so it was every time she spoke of the war, he be- 
came mad with rage. From no one could he bear 
to hear the word war, and it soon became known. 
So people were careful of that subject. 

But none of his brothers in arms could say that 
he had done more harm than others. He had fought 
like a good soldier. It was only all the dreadful 
things he had seen which had frightened him so 
that since then he saw nothing but evil. All his 
trouble came from the war. He thought that all 
nature hated him, because he had had a share in 
such things. They who knew more could console 
themselves that they had fought for fatherland and 
honor. What did he know of such things? He only 
felt that everything hated him because he had shed 
blood and done much injury. 

When the major's wife was driven from Ekeby, 
he lived alone in his cottage. His wife was dead and 
his sons away. During the fairs his house was al- 
ways full of guests. Black-haired, swarthy gypsies 
put up there. They like those best whom others 
avoid. Small, long-haired horses climbed up the 


wood path, dragging carts loaded with children and 
bundles of rags. Women, prematurely old, with 
features swollen by smoking and drinking, and men 
with pale, sharp faces and sinewy bodies followed the 
carts. When the gypsies came to the forest cottage, 
there was a merry life there. Brandy and cards and 
loud talking -followed with them. They had much 
to tell of thefts and horse-dealing and bloody fights. 

The Broby Fair began on a Friday, and then Cap- 
tain Lennart was killed. Big Mons, who gave the 
death-blow, was son to the old man in the forest 
cottage. When the gypsies on Sunday afternoon 
sat together there, they handed old Jan Hok the 
brandy bottle oftener than usual, and talked to him of 
prison life and prison fare and trials; for they had 
often tried such things. 

The old man sat on the chopping-block in the 
corner and said little. His big lack-lustre eyes stared 
at the crowd which filled the room. It was dusk, 
but the wood-fire lighted the room. 

The door was softly opened and two women en- 
tered. It was the young Countess Elizabeth followed 
by the daughter of the Broby clergyman. Lovely 
and glowing, she came into the circle of light. She 
told them that Gosta Berling had not been seen at 
Ekeby since Captain Lennart died. She and her 
servant had searched for him in the wood the whole 
afternoon. Now she saw that there were men here 
who had much wandered, and knew all the paths. 
Had they seen him ? She had come in to rest, and 
to ask if they had seen him. 

It was a useless question. None of them had seen 

They gave her a chair. She sank down on it, and 


sat silent for a while. There was no sound in the 
room. All looked at her and wondered at her. At 
last she grew frightened at the silence, started, and 
tried to speak of indifferent things. She turned to 
the old man in the corner, " I think I have heard 
that you have been a soldier," she said. " Tell me 
something of the war ! " 

The silence grew still deeper. The old man sat as 
if he had not heard. 

** It would be very interesting to hear about the 
war from some one who had been there himself," 
continued the countess; but she stopped short, for 
the Broby clergyman's daughter shook her head at 
her. She must have said something forbidden. 
Everybody was looking at her as if she had offended 
against the simplest rule of propriety. Suddenly 
a gypsy woman raised her sharp voice and asked: 
" Are you not she who has been countess at Borg?" 

" Yes, I am." 

" That was another thing than running about the 
wood after a mad priest." 

The countess rose and said farewell. She was quite 
rested. The woman who had spoken followed her 
out through the door. 

" You understand, countess," she said, " I had to say 
something; for it does not do to speak to the old 
man of war. He can't bear to hear the word. I 
meant well." 

Countess Elizabeth hurried away, but she soon 
stopped. She saw the threatening wood, the dark 
mountain, and the reeking swamp. It must be terrible 
to live here for one whose soul is filled with evil mem- 
ories. She felt compassion for the old man who had 
sat there with the dark gypsies for company. 


** Anna Lisa," she said, " let us turn back ! They 
were kind to us, but I behaved badly. I want to talk 
to the old man about pleasanter things." 

And happy to have found some one to comfort, 
she went back to the cottage. 

** I think," she said, " that Gosta Berling is wander- 
ing here in the wood, and means to take his own life. 
It is therefore important that he be soon found and 
prevented. I and my maid, Anna Lisa, thought we 
saw him sometimes, but then he disappeared. He 
keeps to that part of the mountain where the 
broom-girl was killed. I happened to think that I 
do not need to go way down to Ekeby to get help. 
Here sit many active men who easily could catch 

" Go along, boys ! " cried the gypsy woman. 
*' When the countess does not hold herself too good 
to ask a service of the forest people, you must go at 

The men rose immediately and went out to search. 

Old Jan Hok sat still and stared before him with 
lustreless eyes. Terrifyingly gloomy and hard, he sat 
there. The young woman could think of nothing to 
say to him. Then she saw that a child lay sick on a 
sheaf of straw, and noticed that a woman had hurt her 
hand. Instantly she began to care for the sick. She 
was soon friends with the gossiping women, and had 
them show her the smallest children. 

In an hour the men came back. They carried 
Gosta Berling bound into the room. They laid him 
down on the floor before the fire. His clothes were 
torn and dirty, his cheeks sunken, and his eyes wild. 
Terrible had been his ways during those days; he 
had lain on the damp ground ; he had burrowed with 


his hands and face in bogs, dragged himself over 
rocks, forced his way through tlie thickest under- 
brush. Of his own will he had never come with the 
men ; but they had overpowered and bound him. 

When his wife saw him so, she was angry. She did 
not free his bound limbs ; she let him lie where he 
was on the floor. With scorn she turned from him. 

" How you look ! " she said. 

" I had never meant to come again before your 
eyes," he answered. 

" Am I not your wife? Is it not my right to ex- 
pect you to come to me with your troubles? In 
bitter sorrow I have waited for you these two days." 

" I was the cause of Captain^ Lennart's misfortunes. 
How could I dare to show myself to you ? " 

" You are not often afraid, Gosta." 

" The only service I can do you, Elizabeth, is to 
rid you of myself." 

Unspeakable contempt flashed from under her 
frowning brows at him. 

" You wish to make me a suicide's wife ! " 

His face was distorted. 

" Elizabeth, let us go out into the silent forest and 

" Why should not these people hear us? " she cried, 
speaking in a shrill voice. " Are we better than any 
of them? Has anyone of them caused more sorrow 
and injury than we? They are the children of the 
forest, and of the highway ; they are hated by every 
man. Let them hear how sin and sorrow also follows 
the lord of Ekeby, the beloved of all, Gosta Berling ! 
Do you think your wife considers herself better than 
any one of them — or do you ? " 

He raised himself with difficulty onto his elbow. 


and looked at her with sudden defiance. " I am not 
such a wretch as you think." 

Then she heard the story of those two days. The 
first day Gosta wandered about in the wood, driven 
by remorse. He could not bear to meet any one's 
eye. But he did not think of dying. He meant to 
journey to far distant lands. On Sunday, however, 
he came down from the hills and went to the Bro 
church. Once more he wished to see the people : the 
poor, hungry people whom he had dreamed of serv- 
ing when he had sat by the Broby clergyman's pile 
of shame, and whom he had learned to love when 
he saw them disappear into the night with the dead 

The service had begun when he came to the church. 
He crept up to the gallery, and looked down on the 
people. He had felt bitter agony. He had wanted 
to speak to them, to comfort them in their poverty 
and hopelessness. If he had only been allowed to 
speak in God's house, hopeless as he was, he would 
have found words of hope and salvation for them all. 

Then he left the church, went into the sacristy, and 
wrote the message which his wife already knew. He 
had promised that work should be renewed at Ekeby, 
and grain distributed to those in greatest need. He 
had hoped that his wife and the pensioners would 
fulfil his promises when he was gone. 

As he came out, he saw a coffin standing before the 
parish-hall. It was plain, put together in haste, but 
covered with black crape and wreaths. He knew 
that it was Captain Lennart's. The people had 
begged the captain's wife to hasten the funeral, so 
that all those who had come to the Fair could be at 
the burial. 


He was standing and looking at the coffin, when 
a heavy hand was laid on his shoulder. Sintram had 
come up to him. 

" Gosta," he said, " if you want to play a regular 
trick on a person, lie down and die. There is noth- 
ing more clever than to die, nothing which so 
deceives an honest man who suspects no harm. 
Lie you down and die, I tell you ! " 

Gosta listened with horror to what he said. Sin- 
tram complained of the failure of well-laid plans. 
He had wanted to see a waste about the shores of 
the Lofven. He had made the pensioners lords of 
the place ; he had let the Broby clergyman impov- 
erish the people ; he had called forth the drought and 
the famine. At the Broby Fair the decisive blow 
was to have fallen. Excited by their misfortunes, 
the people should have turned to murder and rob- 
bery. Then there should have been lawsuits to 
beggar them. Famine, riot, and every kind of mis- 
fortune should have ravaged them. Finally, the 
country would have become so odious and detestable 
that no one could have lived there, and it would all 
have been Sintram*s doing. It would have been his 
joy and pride, for he was evil-minded. He loved 
desert wastes and uncultivated fields. But this man 
who had known how to die at the right moment had 
spoiled it all for him. 

Then Gosta asked him what would have been the 
good of it all. 

" It would have pleased me, Gosta, for I am bad. 
I am the grizzly bear on the mountain ; I am the snow- 
storm on the plain; I like to kill and to persecute. 
Away, I say, with people and their works ! I don't 
like them. I can let them slip from between my 


claws and cut their capers, — that is amusing too for 
a while ; but now I am tired of play, Gosta, now I 
want to strike, now I want to kill and to destroy." 

He was mad, quite mad. He began a long time ago 
as a joke with those devilish tricks, and now his mali- 
ciousness had taken the upper hand ; now he thought 
he really was a spirit from the lower regions. He had 
fed and fostered the evil in him until it had taken pos- 
session of his soul. For wickedness can drive people 
mad, as well as love and brooding. 

He was furious, and in his anger he began to tear 
the wreaths from off the coffin ; but then Gosta Ber- 
ling cried : " Let the coffin be ! " 

" Well, well, well, so I shall not touch it ! Yes ; 
I shall throw my friend Lennart out on the ground 
and trample on his wreaths. Do you not see what 
he has done to me ? Do you not see in what a fine 
gray coach I am riding? " 

And Gosta then saw that a couple of prison-vans 
with the sheriff and constables of the district stood 
and waited outside the church-yard wall. 

" I ought to send Captain Lennart's wife thanks 
that she yesterday sat herself down to read through 
old papers in order to find proof against me in that 
matter of the powder, you know? Shall I not let her 
know that she would have done better to occupy 
herself with brewing and baking, than in sending the 
sheriff and his men after me? Shall I have nothing 
for the tears I have wept to induce Scharling to let 
me come here and read a prayer by my good friend's 

And he began again to drag on the crape. 

Then Gosta Berling came close up to him and 
seized his arms. 


** I will give anything to make you let the coffin 
alone/' he said. 

** Do what you like," said the madman. " Call if 
you like. I can always do something before the 
sheriff gets here. Fight with me, if you like. That 
will be a pleasing sight here by the church. Let us 
fight among the wreaths and palls.** 

** I will buy rest for the dead at any price. Take 
my life, take everything ! " 

" You promise much." 

** You can prove it." 

"Well, then, kill yourself!" 

** I will do it ; but first the coffin shall be safely 
under earth." 

And so it was. Sintram took Gosta's oath that 
he would not be alive twelve hours after Captain 
Lennart was buried. " Then I know that you can 
never be good for anything," he said. 

It was easy for Gosta Berling to promise. He was 
glad to be able to give his wife her liberty. Remorse 
had made him long for death. The only thing which 
troubled him was, that he had promised the majors 
wife not to die as long as the Broby clergyman's 
daughter was a servant at Ekeby. But Sintram said 
that she could no longer be considered as servant, 
since she had inherited her father's fortune. Gosta 
objected that the Broby clergyman had hidden his 
treasures so well that no one had been able to find 
them. Then Sintram laughed and said that they 
were hidden up among the pigeons' nests in the 
church tower. Thereupon he went away. And Gosta 
went back to the wood again. It seemed best to 
him to die at the place where the broom-girl had 
been killed. He had wandered there the whole after- 


no-jji. He had seen his wife in the wood ; and then 
he had not had the strength to kill himself. 

All this he told his wife, while he lay bound on the 
floor of the cottage. 

" Oh/' she said sadly, when he had finished, " how 
familiar it all is ! Always ready to thrust your hands 
into the fire, Gosta, always ready to throw yourself 
away ! How noble such things seemed to me once ! 
How I now value calmness and good sense ! What 
good did you do the dead by such a promise? 
What did it matter if Sintram had overturned the 
coffin and torn off the crape? It would have been 
picked up again ; there would have been found new 
crape, new wreaths. If you had laid your hand on 
that good man's coffin, there before Sintram's eyes, 
and sworn to live to help those poor people whom 
he wished to ruin, that I should have commended. 
If you had thought, when you saw the people in the 
church : * I will help them ; I will make use of all my 
strength to help them,' and not laid that burden on 
your weak wife, and on old men with failing strength, 
I should also have commended that." 

Gosta Berling lay silent for a while. 

" We pensioners are not free men," he said at last 
** We have promised one another to live for pleasure, 
and only for pleasure. Woe to us all if one breaks 
his word ! " 

"Woe to you," said the countess, indignantly, "if 

you shall be the most cowardly of the pensioners, 

and slower to improve than any of them. Yesterday 

afternoon the whole eleven sat in the pensioners' wing, 

and they were very sad. You were gone ; Captain 

Lennart was gone. The glory and honor of Ekeby 

were gone. They left the toddy tray untouched; 



they would not let tne see them. Then the maid, 
Anna Lisa, who stands here, went up to them. You 
know she is an energetic little woman who for years 
has struggled despairingly against neglect and waste. 

" * To-day I have again been at home and looked 
for father's money,* she said to the pensioners ; ' but 
I have not found anything. All the debts are paid, 
and the drawers and closets are empty.* 

" * We are sorry for you, Anna Lisa,' said Beeren- 

" ' When the major's wife left Ekeby,' continued 
Anna Lisa, * she told me to see after her house. 
And if I had found father's money, I would have 
built up Ekeby. But as I did not find anything else 
to take away with me, I took father's shame heap ; for 
great shame awaits me when my mistress comes 
again and asks me what I have done with Ekeby.' 

" * Don't take so much to heart what is not your 
fault, Anna Lisa,' said Beerencreutz again. 

" ' But I did not take the shame heap for myself 
alone,* said Anna Lisa. * I took it also for your 
reckoning, good gentlemen. Father is not the only 
one who has been the cause of shame and injury in 
this world.' 

" And she went from one to the other of them, and 
laid down some of the dry sticks before each. Some 
of them swore, but most of them let her go on. At 
last Beerencreutz said, calmly: — 

" * It is well. We thank you. You may go now.' 
When she had gone, he struck the table with his 
clenched hand till the glasses rang. 

"'From this hour,* he said, 'absolutely sober. 
Brandy shall never again cause me such shame.' 
Thereupon he rose and went out. 


"They followed him by degrees, all the others. 
Do you know where they went, Gosta? Well, down 
to the river, to the point where the mill and the forge 
had stood, and there they began to work. They be- 
gan to drag away the logs and stones and clear the 
place. The old men have had a hard time. Many 
of them have had sorrow. Now they can no longer 
bear the disgrace of having ruined Ekeby. I know 
too well that you pensioners are ashamed to work ; 
but now the others have taken that shame on them. 
Moreover, Gosta, they mean to send Anna Lisa up 
to the major's wife to bring her home. But you, 
what are you doing?" 

He found still an answer to give her. 

"What do you want of me, of a dismissed priest? 
Cast off by men, hateful to God ? " 

" I too have been in the Bro church to-day, Gosta. 
I have a message to you from two women. *Tell 
Gosta,' said Marianne Sinclair, ' that a woman does 
not like to be ashamed of him she has loved.' * Tell 
Gosta,' said Anna Stjarnhok, *that all is now well 
with me. I manage my own estates. I do not think 
of love, only of work. At Berga too they have con- 
quered the first bitterness of their sorrow. But we 
all grieve for Gosta. We believe in him and pray 
for him; but when, when will he be a man?' 

"Do you hear? Are you cast off by men?" con- 
tinued the countess. " Your misfortune is that you 
have been met with too much love. Women and 
men have loved you. If you only jested and laughed,, 
if you only sang and played, they have forgiven 
you everything. Whatever it has pleased you to 
do has seemed right to them. And you dare to call 
yourself an outcast! Or are you hateful to God? 


Why did you not stay and see Caprain Lennart's 

" As he had died on a Fair day, his fame had gone 
far and wide. After the service, thousands of people 
came up to the church. The funeral procession was 
formed by the town hall. They were only waiting 
for the old dean. He was ill and had not preached; 
but he had promised to come to Captain Lennart's 
funeral. And at last he came, with head sunk on his 
breast, and dreaming his dreams, as he is wont to do 
now in his old age, and placed himself at the head of 
the procession. He noticed nothing unusual. He 
walked on the familiar path and did not look up. 
He read the prayers, and threw the earth on the 
coffin, and still noticed nothing. But then the sex- 
ton began a hymn. Hundreds and hundreds of 
voices joined in. Men, women, and children sang. 
Then the dean awoke from his dreams. He passed 
his hand over his eyes and stepped up on the mound 
of earth to look. Never had he seen such a crowd 
of mourners. All were singing; all had tears in 
their eyes, — all were mourning. 

" Then the old dean began to tremble. What 
should he say to these people ? He must say a word 
to comfort them. 

" When the song ceased, he stretched out his arms 
over the people. 

" * I see that you are mourning,' he said ; * and sor- 
row is heavier to bear for one who has long to live 
than for me who will soon be gone.' 

** He stopped dismayed. His voice was too weak, 
and words failed him. 

" But he soon began again. His voice had regained 
its youthful strength, and his eyes glowed. 


^* First, he told all he knew of God's wayfarer. Then 
he reminded us that no outward polish nor great 
ability had made that man so honored as he now 
was, but only that he had always followed God's 
ways. And now he asked us to do the same. Each 
should love the other, and help him. Each should 
think well of the other. And he explained every- 
thing which had happened this year. He said it 
was a preparation for the time of love and happiness 
which now was to be expected. 

" And we all felt as if we had heard a prophet speak. 
All wished to love one another; all wished to be 

" He lifted his eyes and hands and proclaimed peace 
in the neighborhood. Then he called on a helper 
for the people. * Some one will come,* he said. * It 
is not God's will that you shall perish. God will find 
some one who will feed the hungry and lead you in 
His ways.' 

" Then we ail thought of you, Gosta. We knew 
that the dean spoke of you. The people who had 
heard your message went home talking of you. 
And you wandered here in the wood and wanted 
to die ! The people are waiting for you, Gosta. In 
all the cottages they are sitting and saying that, as 
the mad priest at Ekeby is going to help them, all 
will be well. You are their hero, Gosta. 

" Yes, Gosta, it is certain that the old man meant 
you, and that ought to make you want to live. 
But I, Gosta, who am your wife, I say to you that 
you shall go and do your duty. You shall not 
dream of being sent by God, — any one can be that. 
You shall work without any heroics ; you shall not 
shine and astonish; you shall so manage that your 


name is not too often heard on the people's lips. 
But think well before you take back your promise 
to Sintram. You have now got a certain right to 
die, and life ought not to offer you many attractions. 
There was a time when my wish was to go home to 
Italy, Gosta. It seemed too much happiness for me, 
a sinner, to be your wife, and be with you through 
life. But now I shall stay. If you dare to live, I 
shall stop; but do not await any joy from that. I 
shall force you to follow the weary path of duty. 
You need never expect words of joy or hope from 
me. Can a heart which has suffered like mine love 
again? Tearless and joyless I shall walk beside you. 
Think well, Gosta, before you choose to live. We 
shall go the way of penance." 

She did not wait for his answer. She nodded to 
Anna Lisa and went. When she came out into the 
wood, she began to weep bitterly, and wept until she 
reached Ekeby. Arrived there, she remembered 
that she had forgotten to talk of gladder things than 
war to Jan Hok, the soldier. 

In the cottage there was silence when she was 

" Glory and honor be to the Lord God ! " said the 
old soldier, suddenly. 

They looked at him. He had risen and was look- 
ing eagerly about him. 

" Wicked, wicked has everything been," he said 
'* Everything I have seen since I got my eyes 
opened has been wicked. Bad men, bad women! 
Hate and anger in forest and plain! But she is 
good. A good woman has stood in my house. 
When I am sitting here alone, I shall remember her. 
She shall be with me in the wood." 


He bent down over Gosta, untied his fetters, and 
lifted him up. Then he solemnly took his hand. 

" Hateful to God," he said and nodded. " That is 
just it. But now you are not any more ; nor I either, 
since she has been in my house. She is good." 

The next day old Jan Hok came to the bailiff 
Scharling. " I will carry my cross," he said. " I 
have been a bad man, therefore I have had bad 
sons." And he asked to be allowed to go to prison 
instead of his son ; but that could not be. 

The best of old stories is the one which tells of 
how he followed his son, walking beside the prison 
van ; how he slept outside his cell ; how he did not 
forsake him until he had suffered his punishment. 




A FEW days before Christmas the major's wife started 
on her journey down to the Lofsjo district; but it 
was not till Christmas Eve that she came to Ekeby. 
During the whole journey she was ill. Yet, in spite 
of cold and fever, people had never seen her in better 
spirits nor heard her speak more friendly words. 

The Broby clergyman's daughter, who had been 
with her in the Alfdal forests ever since October, sat 
by her side in the sledge and wished to hasten the 
journey ; but she could not prevent the old woman 
from stopping the horses and calling every wayfarer 
up to her to ask for news. 

"How is it with you all here in Lofsjo?" she 

" All is well," was the answer. " Better times are 
coming. The mad priest there at Ekeby and his 
wife help us all." 

"A good time has come," answered another. 
" Sintram is gone. The Ekeby pensioners are work- 
ing. The Broby clergyman's money is found in the 
Bro church-tower. There is so much that the glory 
and power of Ekeby can be restored with it. Ther6 
is enough too to get bread for the hungry." 

*' Our old dean has waked to new life and strength," 
said a third. '* Every Sunday he speaks to us of the 
coming of the Kingdom of God. " 


And the major's wife drove slowly on, asking every 
one she met: " How is it here? Do you not suffer 
from want here?" 

And the fever and the stabbing pain in her breast 
were assuaged, when they answered her : " There 
are two good and rich women here, Marianne Sinclair 
and Anna Stjarnhok. They help Gosta Berling to 
go from house to house and see that no one is starv- 
ing. And no more brandy is made now." 

It was as if the major s wife had sat in the sledge 
and listened to a long divine service. She had come 
to a blessed land. She saw old, furrowed faces 
brighten, when they spoke of the time which had 
come. The sick forgot their pains to tell of the day 
of joy. 

" We all want to be like the good Captain I^nnart," 
they said. " We all want to be good. We want to 
believe good of every one. We will not injure any 
one. It shall hasten the coming of God's Kingdom." 

She found them all filled with the same spirit On 
the larger estates free dinners were given to those 
who were in greatest need. All who had work to be 
done had it done now. 

She had never felt in better health than when she 
sat there and let the cold air stream into her aching 
breast. She could not drive by a single house with- 
out stopping and asking. 

** Everything is well," they all said. " There was 
great distress, but the good gentlemen from Ekeby 
help us. You will be surprised at everything which 
has been done there. The mill is almost ready, and 
the smithy is at work, and the burned-down house 
ready for the roof." 

Ah, it would only last a short time ! But still it 


was good to return to a land where they all helped 
one another and all wished to do good. The major's 
wife felt that she could now forgive the pensioners, 
and she thanked God for it. 

" Anna Lisa/' she said, " I feel as if I had already 
come into the heaven of the blessed.'' 

When she at last reached Ekeby, and the pensioners 
hurried to help her out of the sledge, they could 
hardly recognize her, for she was as kind and gentle 
as their own young countess. The older ones, who 
had seen her as a young girl, whispered to one 
another : " It is not the major's wife at Ekeby ; it is 
Margareta Celsing who has come back." 

Great was the pensioners' joy to see her come so 
kind and so free from all thoughts of revenge ; but it 
was soon changed to grief when they found how ill 
she was. She had to be carried immediately into 
the guest-room in the wing, and put to bed. But on 
the threshold she turned and spoke to them. 

" It has been God's storm," she said, — ** God's 
storm. I know now that it has all been for the 
best ! " 

Then the door to the sick-room closed, and they 
never saw her again. 

There is so much to say to one who is dying. 
The words throng to the lips when one knows that 
in the next room lies one whose ears will soon be 
closed for always. " Ah, my friend, my friend," one 
wants to say, ** can you forgive? Can you believe 
that I have loved you in spite of everything ! Ah, 
my friend, thanks for all the joy you have given 

That will one say and so much, much more. 

But the major's wife lay in a burning fever, and 


the voices of the pensioners could not reach her. 
Would she never know how they had worked, how 
they had taken up her work? 

After a little while the pensioners went down to 
the smithy. There all work was stopped ; but they 
threw new coal and new ore into the furnace, and 
made ready to smelt. They did not call the smith, 
who had gone home to celebrate Christmas, but 
worked themselves at the forge. If the major's wife 
could only live until the hammer got going, it would 
tell her their story. 

Evening came and then night, while they worked. 
Several of them thought, how strange it was that 
they should again celebrate the night before Christ- 
mas in the smithy. 

Kevenhiiller, who had been the architect of the 
mill and .the smithy, and Christian Bergh stood by 
the forge and attended to the melting iron. Gosta 
and Julius were the stokers. Some of the others sat 
on the anvil under the raised hammer, and others sat 
on coal-carts and piles of pig-iron. Lowenborg was 
talking to Eberhard, the philosopher, who sat beside 
him on the anvil. 

" Sintram dies to-night,** he said. 

" Why just to-night? ** asked Eberhard. 

" You know that we made an agreement last year. 
Now we have done nothing which has been ungentle- 
manly, and therefore he has lost." 

" You who believe in such things know very well 
that we have done a great deal which has been un- 
gentlemanly. First, we did not help the major's 
wife; second, we began to work; third, it was not 
quite right that Gosta Berling did not kill himself, 
when he had promised." 


" I have thought of that too," answered Lowen- 
borg ; " but my opinion is, that you do not rightly 
comprehend the matter. To act with the thought of 
our own mean advantage was forbidden us ; but not to 
act as love or honor or our own salvation demanded. 
I think that Sintram has lost" 

" Perhaps you are right" 

" I tell you that I know it I have heard his sleigh- 
bells the whole evening, but they are not real bells. 
We shall soon have him here." 

And the little old man sat and stared through the 
smithy door, which stood open, out at the bit of blue 
sky studded with stars which showed through it 

After a little while he started up. 

"Do you see him?" he whispered. "There he 
comes creeping. Do you not see him in the door- 

" I see nothing," replied Eberhard. " You are 
sleepy, that is the whole story." 

" I saw him so distinctly against the sky. He had 
on his long wolfskin coat and fur cap. Now he is 
over there in the dark, and I cannot see him. Look, 
now he is up by the furnace. He is standing close 
to Christian Bergh ; but Christian seems not to see 
him. Now he is bending down and is throwing 
something into the fire. Oh, how wicked he looks ! 
Take care, friends, take care ! " 

As he spoke, a tongue of flame burst out of the 
furnace, and covered the smiths and their assistants 
with cinders and sparks. No one, however, was 

" He wants to be revenged," whispered Lowenborg. 

" You too are mad ! " cried Eberhard. " You 
ought to have had enough of such things." 


I" Do you not see how he is standing there by the 
prop and grinning at us? But. verily, I believe that 
he has unfastened the hammer." 

He started up and dragged Eberhard with him. 
The second after the hammer fell thundering down 
onto the anvil. It was only a clamp which had given 
way; but Eberhard and Lowenborg had narrowly 
escaped death. 

"You see that he has no power over us," said 
^■Lowenborg, triumphantly, "But it is plain that he 
^Kwants to be revenged." 
^F And he called Gosta Berling to him. 

"Go up to the women, Gosta. Perhaps he will 
show himself to them too. They are not so used as 
I to seeing such things. They may be frightened. 
And take care of yourself, Gosta, for he has a special 
grudge against you, and perhaps he has power over 
you on account of that promise." 

Afterwards they heard that Lowenborg had been 
right, and that Sintram had died that night. Some 
said that he had hanged himself in his cell. Others 
believed that the servants of justice secretly had him 
killed, for the trial seemed to be going well for him, 
and it would never do to let him out again among . 
the people in Lofsjd. Still others thought that a 
dark visitor had driven up in a black carriage, drawn 
by black horses, and had taken him out of prison. 
And Lowenborg was not the only one who saw him 
that night. He was also seen at Fors and in Ulrika 
Dinner's dreams. Many told how he had shown 
himself to them, until Ulrika Dillner moved his body 
to the Bro churchyard. She also had the evil ser- 
vants sent away from Fors and introduced there good 
f [Order. After that it was no longer haunted. 


It is said that before Gosta Berling reached the 
house, a stranger had come to the wing and had left 
a letter for the major's wife. No one knew the mes- 
senger, but the letter was carried in and laid on the 
table beside the sick woman. Soon after she became 
unexpectedly better; the fever decreased, the pain 
abated, and she was able to read the letter. 

The old people believe that her improvement de- 
pended on the influence of the powers of darkness. 
Sintram and his friends would profit by the reading 
of that letter. 

It was a contract written in blood on black paper. 
The pensioners would have recognized it. It was 
composed on the last Christmas Eve in the smithy at 

And the major's wife lay there now and read that 
since she had been a witch, and had sent pensioners' 
souls to hell, she was condemned to lose Ekeby. 
That and other similar absurdities she read. She 
examined the date and signatures, and found the 
following note beside Gosta's name : " Because the 
major's wife has taken advantage of my weakness to 
tempt me away from honest work, and to keep me as 
pensioner at Ekeby, because she has made me Ebba 
Dohna's murderer by betraying to her that I am a 
dismissed priest, I sign my name." 

The major's wife slowly folded the paper and put 
it in its envelope. Then she lay still and thought 
over what she had learned. She understood with 
bitter pain that such was the people's thought of her. 
She was a witch and a sorceress to all those whom 
she had served, to whom she had given work and 
bread. This was her reward. They could not be- 
lieve anything better of an adulteress. 


Her thoughts flew. Wild anger and a longing for 
revenge flamed up in her fever-burning brain. She 
had Anna Lisa, who with Countess Elizabeth tended 
her, send a message to Hogfors to the manager and 
overseer. She wished to make her will. 

Again she lay thinking. Her eyebrows were drawn 
together, her features were terribly distorted by 

" You are very ill," said the countess, softly. 

" Yes, more ill than ever before." 

There was silence again, but then the major's wife 
spoke in a hard, harsh voice : — 

"It is strange to think that you, too, countess, 
you whom every one loves, are an adulteress." 

The young woman started. 

" Yes, if not in deed, yet in thoughts and desire, 
and that makes no diflerence. I who lie here feel 
that it makes no diflerence." 

" I know it 1 " 

** And yet you are happy now. You may possess 
him you loved without sin. That black spectre does 
not stand between you when you meet. You may 
belong to one another before the world, love one 
another, go side by side through life." 

" Oh, madame, madame ! " 

" How can you dare to stay with him?" cried the 
old woman, with increasing violence. " Repent, re- 
pent in time ! Go home to your father and mother, 
before they come and curse you. Do you dare to 
consider Gosta Berling your husband ? Leave him ! 
I shall give him Ekeby. I shall give him power and 
glory. Do you dare to share that with him ? Do 
you dare to accept happiness and honor? I did not 
dare to. Do you remember what happened to me? 


Do you remember the Christmas dinner at Ekeby? 
Do you remember the cell in the bailiff's house ? " 

*• Oh, madame, we sinners go here side by side 
without happiness. I am here to see that no joy 
shall find a home by our hearth. Do you think 
I do not long for my home? Oh, bitterly do I long 
for the protection and support of home ; but I shall 
never again enjoy them. Here I shall live in fear 
and trembling, knowing that everything I do leads 
to sin and sorrow, knowing that if I help one, I ruin 
another. Too weak and foolish for the life here, and 
yet forced to live it, bound by an everlasting penance." 

** With such thoughts we deceive our hearts," cried 
the major's wife ; ** but it is weakness. You will not 
leave him, that is the only reason." 

Before the countess could answer, Gosta Berling 
came into the room. 

" Come here, Gosta," said the major's wife instantly, 
and her voice grew still sharper and harder. ** Come 
here, you whom everybody praises. You shall now 
hear what has happened to your old friend whom you 
allowed to wander about the country, despised and 

"I will first tell you what happened last spring, 
when I came home to my mother, for you ought to 
know the end of that story. 

"In March I reached the iron-works in the Alfdal 
forest, Gosta. Little better than a beggar I looked. 
They told me that my mother was in the dairy. So I 
went there, and stood for a long while silent at the door. 
There were long shelves round about the room, and 
on them stood shining copper pans filled with milk. 
And my mother, who was over ninety years old, took 
down pan after pan and skimmed off the cream. She 


was active enough, the old woman ; but I saw well 
enough how hard it was for her to straighten up her 
back to reach the pans. I did not know if she had 
seen me ; but after a while she spoke to me in a 
curious, shrill voice. 

" * So everything has happened to you as I wished,' 
she said. I wanted to speak and to ask her to forgive 
me, but it was a waste of trouble. She did not hear 
a word of it, — she was stone-deaf. But after a while 
she spoke again : * You can come and help me,' she 

" Then I went in and skimmed the milk. I took the 
pans in order, and put everything in its place, and 
skimmed just deep enough, and she was pleased. She 
had never been able to trust any of the maids to skim 
the milk ; but I knew of old how she Hked to have it. 

" * Now you can take charge of this work,' she said. 
And then I knew that she had forgiven me. 

** And afterwards all at once it seemed as if she 
could not work any more. She sat in her arm-chair 
and slept almost all day. She died two weeks before 
Christmas. I should have liked to have come before, 
Gosta, but I could not leave her." 

She stopped. She began to find breathing difficult ; 
but she made an effort and went on : — 

" It is true, Gosta, that I wished to keep you near 
me at Ekeby. There is something about you which 
makes every one rejoice to be with you. If you had 
shown a wish to be a settled man, I would have given 
you much power. I always hoped that you would 
find a good wife. First, I thought that it would be 
Marianne Sinclair, for I saw that she loved you al- 
ready, when you lived as wood-cutter in the wood. 
Then I thought that it would be Ebba Dohna, and 



one day I drove over to Borg and told her that if she 
would have you for husband, I would leave you 
Ekeby in my will. If I did wrong in that, you must 
forgive me." 

Gosta was kneeling by the bed with his face hidden 
in the blankets, and was moaning bitterly. 

" Tell me, Gosta, how you mean to live? How shall 
you support your wife? Tell me that You know that 
I have always wished you well." And Gosta answered 
her smiling, while his heart almost burst with pain. 

" In the old days, when I tried to be a laborer here 
at Ekeby, you gave me a cottage to live in, and it is 
still mine. This autumn I have put it quite in order. 
Lowenborg has helped me, and we have whitewashed 
the ceilings and hung the walls with paper and 
painted them. The inner little room Lowenborg calls 
the countess's boudoir, and he has gone through all the 
farm-houses round about for furniture, which has come 
there from manor-house auctions. He has bought 
them, so that there we have now high-backed arm- 
chairs and chests of drawers with shining mountings. 
But in the outer big room stands the young wife's 
weaving-loom and my lathe. Household utensils and 
all kinds of things are there, and there Lowenborg 
and I have already sat many evenings and talked of 
how the young countess and I will have it in the 
cottage. But my wife did not know it till now. 
We wanted to tell her when we should leave Ekeby." 

" Go on, Gosta." 

"Lowenborg was always saying that a maid was 
needed in the house. * In the summer it is lovely 
here in the birch grove,* he used to say ; * but in winter 
it will be too lonely for the young wife. You will 
have to have a maid, Gosta.*. 


" And I agreed with him, but I did not know how I 
could afford to keep one. Then he came one day 
and carried down his music, and his table with the 
painted keyboard, and put it in the cottage. * It is 
you, Lowenborg, who are going to be the maid,' I said 
to him. He answered that he would be needed. Did I 
mean the young countess to cook the food, and to 
carry wood and water? No, I had not meant her 
to do anything at all, as long as I had a pair of arms 
to work with. But he still thought that it would be 
best if there were two of us, so that she might sit the 
whole day on her sofa and embroider. I could never 
know how much waiting upon such a little woman 
needed, he said." 

" Go on," said the major's wife. " It eases my 
pain. Did you think that your young countess 
would be willing to live in a cottage?" 

He wondered at her scornful tone, but continued : 

" No, I did not dare to think it ; but it would have 
been so perfect if she had been willing. It is thirty 
miles from any doctor. She, who has a light hand 
and a tender heart, would have had work enough to 
tend wounds and allay fevers. And I thought that 
everybody in trouble would find the way to the lady 
mistress in the forest cottage. There is so much 
distress among the poor which kind words and a 
gentle heart can help." 

" But you yourself, Gosta Berling? " 

" I shall have my work at the carpenter's bench 
and lathe. I shall hereafter live my own life. If my 
wife will not follow me, I cannot help it. If some 
one should offer me all the riches of the universe, 
it would not tempt me. I want to live my own life. 
Now I shall be and remain a poor man among the 


peasants, and help them with whatever I can. They 
need some one to play the polka for them at wed- 
dings and at Christmas; they need some one to 
write letters to their distant sons, — and that some one 
I will be. But I must be poor." 

" It will be a gloomy life for you, Gosta." 

" Oh, no, it would not be if we were but two who 
kept together. The rich and happy would come to 
us as well as the poor. It would be gay enough in 
our cottage. Our guests would not care if the food 
was cooked right before their eyes, or be shocked 
that two must eat from the same plate." 

"And what would be the good of it all, Gosta? 
What praise would you win ? " 

** Great would be my reward if the poor would 
remember me for a year or two after my death. I 
should have done some good if I had planted a 
couple of apple-trees at the house-corners, if I had 
taught the country fiddlers some of the old tunes, and 
if the shepherd children could have learnt a few good 
songs to sing in the wood-paths. 

" You can believe me, I am the same mad Gosta 
Berling that I was before. A country fiddler is all 
I can be, but that is enough. I have many sins to 
atone for. To weep and to repent is not for me. I 
shall give the poor pleasure, that is my penance." 

** Gosta," said the major's wife, " it is too humble 
a life for a man with your powers. I will give you 

** Oh," he cried in terror, " do not make me rich ! 
Do not put such duties upon me ! Do not part me 
from the poor ! " 

" I will give Ekeby to you and the pensioners," 
repeated the major's wife. ** You are a capable man, 


Gosta, whom the people bless. I say like my 
mother, * You shall take charge of this work ! * " 

** No, we could not accept it, — we who have mis- 
judged you and caused you such pain ! " 

" I will give you Ekeby, do you hear?" 

She spoke bitterly and harshly, without kindness. 
He was filled with dismay. 

** Do not tempt the old men ! It would only make 
them idlers and drunkards again. God in Heaven, 
rich pensioners ! What would become of us ! " 

" I will give you Ekeby, Gosta ; but then you must 
promise to set your wife free. Such a delicate little 
woman is not for you. She has had to suffer too much 
here in the land of the bear. She is longing for her 
bright native country. You shall let her go. That 
is why I give you Ekeby." 

But then Countess Elizabeth came forward to the 
major's wife and knelt by the bed. 

" I do not long any more. He who is my husband 
has solved the problem, and found the life I can live. 
No longer shall I need to go stern and cold beside 
him, and remind him of repentance and atonement. 
Poverty and want and hard work will do that. The 
paths which lead to the poor and sick I can follow 
without sin. I am no longer afraid of the life here 
in the north. But do not make him rich ; then I do 
not dare to stay. " 

The major's wife raised herself in the bed. 

"You demand happiness for yourselves," she 
cried, and threatened them with clenched fists, — 
"happiness and blessing. No, let Ekeby be the 
pensioners', that they may be ruined. Let man and 
wife be parted, that they may be ruined ! I am a 
witch, I am a sorceress, I shall incite you to evil- 
doing. I shall be what my reputation is." 


She seized the letter and flung it in Gosta's face. 
The black paper fluttered out and fell on the floor. 
Gosta knew it too well. 

" You have sinned against me, Gosta. You have 
misjudged one who has been a second mother to you. 
Do you dare to refuse your punishment ? You shall 
accept Ekeby, and it shall ruin you, for you are 
weak. You shall send home your wife, so that 
there will be no one to save you. You shall die 
with a name as hated as mine. Margareta Celsing's 
obituary is that of a witch. Yours shall be that of 
a spendthrift and an oppressor of the poor." 

She sank back on the pillows, and all was still. 
Through the silence rang a muffled blow, now one 
and then another. The sledge-hammer had begun 
its far-echoing work. 

" Listen," said Gosta Berling, " so sounds Margareta 
Celsing's obituary! That is not a prank of dnmken 
pensioners ; that is the song of the victory of labor, 
raised in honor of a good, old worker. Do you hear 
what the hammer says ? ' Thanks, ' it says ; * thanks 
for good work; thanks for bread, which you have 
given the poor; thanks for roads, which you have 
opened; thanks for districts, which you have culti- 
vated! Thanks for pleasure, with which you have 
filled your halls ! ' — ' Thanks, ' it says, * and sleep 
in peace! Your work shall live and continue. 
Your house shall always be a home for happy labor. ' 
— * Thanks, ' it says, ' and do not judge us who have 
sinned ! You who are now starting on the journey 
to the regions of peace, think gentle thoughts of us 
who still live. ' " 

Gosta ceased, but the sledge-hammer went on 
speaking. All the voices which had ever spoken 


kindly to the major's wife were mingled with the ring 
of the hammer. Gradually her features relaxed, as 
if the shadow of death had fallen over her. 

Anna Lisa came in and announced that the gentle- 
men from Hogfors had come. The major's wife let 
them go. She would not make any will. 

"Oh, Gosta Berling, man of many deeds," she 
said, "so you have conquered once more. Bend 
down and let me bless you!" 

The fever returned with redoubled strength. The 
death-rattle began. The body toiled through dreary 
suffering; but the spirit soon knew nothing of it. 
It began to gaze into the heaven which is opened 
for the dying. 

So an hour passed, and the short death-struggle 
was over. She lay there so peaceful and beautiful 
that those about her were deeply moved. 

"My dear old mistress," said Gosta, "so have I 
seen you once before. Now has Margareta Celsing 
come back to life. Now she will never again yield 
to the major's wife at Ekeby." 

When the pensioners came in from the forge, they 
were met by the news of Margareta Celsing' s death. 

" Did she hear the hammer 1 " they asked. 

She had done so, and they could be satisfied. 

They heard, too, that she had meant to give Ekeby 
to them; but that the will had never been drawn. 
That they considered a great honor, and rejoiced over 
it as long as they lived. But no one ever heard 
them lament over the riches they had lost. 

It is also said that on that Christmas night Gosta 
Berling stood by his young wife's side and made his 
last speech to the pensioners. He was grieved at 


their fate when they now must all leave Ekeby. 
The ailments of old age awaited them. The old and 
worn-out find a cold welcome. 

And so he spoke to them. Once more he called 
them old gods and knights who had risen up to 
bring pleasure into the land of iron. But he lamented 
that the pleasure garden where the butterfly-winged 
pleasure roves is filled with destructive caterpillars, 
and that its fruits are withered. 

Well he knew that pleasure was a good to the 
children of the earth, and it must exist. But, like a 
heavy riddle, the question always lay upon the world, 
how a man could be both gay and good. The easiest 
thing and yet the hardest, he called it. Hitherto 
they had not been able to solve the problem. Now 
he wanted to believe that they had learned it, that 
they had all learned it during that year of joy and 
sorrow, of happiness and despair. 

You dear old people ! In the old days you gave 
me precious gifts. But what have I given you.? 

Perhaps it may gladden you that your names sound 
again in connection with the dear old places.? May 
all the brightness which belonged to your life fall 
again over the tracts where you have lived ! Borg 
still stands; Bjorne still stands; Ekeby still lies by 
lake Lofven, surrounded by falls and lake, by park 
and smiling meadows; and when one stands on the 
broad terraces, legends swarm about one like the 
bees of summer. 

But, speaking of bees, let me tell one more old 
story. The little Ruster, who went as a drummer 
at the head of the Swedish army, when in 1813 it 
pjarched into Germany, could never weary of telling 


stories of that wonderful land in the south. The 
people there were as tall as church towers, the 
swallows were as big as eagles, the bees as geese. 

"Well, but the bee-hives?" 

"The bee-hives were like our ordinary bee-hives." 

" How did the bees get in t " 

"Well, that they had to look out for," said the 
little Ruster. 

Dear reader, must I say the same.? The giant 
bees of fancy have now swarmed about us for a year 
and a day ; but how they are going to come into the 
bee-hive of fact, that they really must find out for 





- 1 


1 1 

■ r